POLICE have stepped up surveillance at border checkpoints to intercept suspected hackers behind the ATM heist in Bangkok and six other provinces while banks reassured the public of increased ATM security to prevent a repeat of such incidents.
Pol General Panya Mamen, a senior adviser to the National Police, said yesterday that five of 25 suspects, including several eastern Europeans, may have left the country but returned to Thailand after stealing Bt12.29 million last month from 21 ATMs installed by |the Government Savings Bank (GSB).
The theft was discovered earlier this month.
Immigration police in Sa Kaew, a province bordering Cambodia, said they had been vigilant screening foreigners and Thai citizens leaving the country based on sketches of suspects provided by investigators.
Describing the theft as the first of its kind in Thailand, Panya said investigators had been working on the case for more than a week and had already obtained evidence |about the identities of key Thai and foreign suspects believed to belong to the same criminal gang that recently stole money from ATMs in Taiwan.
Of the suspects, five unnamed east Europeans have immigration records showing they have entered Thailand previously and are believed to have Thai accomplices who stole money from ATMS in Surat Thani, Chumphon, Phuket, Prachuap |Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi and Bangkok.
The GSB has reviewed the security of its ATMs, including about 200 units that were feared to have been infected with malware by the suspects.
Infected ATMs could dispense cash without authorisation, but the process would take time so passers-by who noticed unusual activities around ATMs in public places should report them to police, he said.
“One ATM in Phetchaburi dispensed as much as Bt1 million while others allowed unauthorised cash withdrawals of tens of thousands of baht each time.
“However, the public should not panic because the money is not owned by bank customers, so the banks themselves have to be responsible for the stolen money.
“Banks have cooperated to prevent a repeat of the incidents,” he said.
The ATM hack is understood to have been carried out between July 7 and 30 of this year but the GSB only discovered the problem earlier this month after bank officials counted the cash balance in the infected ATMs, he said.
Police are gathering evidence to seek arrest warrants for the suspects, who have been linked to vehicles and accommodations.
The Nation yesterday contacted NCR (Thailand), the supplier of GSB’s ATMs, by telephone and the managing director said the company was discussing the matter and would soon provide a detailed statement at a press conference.