At least 100 suspects stole over $13 million in three hours on Sunday, withdrawing money from hundreds of ATMs using forged credit cards.
The massive scheme used stolen data of some 1,600 credit cards issued by a South African bank to create fake credit cards.
The suspects then started withdrawing maximum amounts of 100,000 Yen (about $913) from ATMs in Tokyo and other prefectures in Japan on Sunday, May 15, at about 5 a.m.
In three hours they made over 14,000 withdrawals from 1,400 ATMs in convenience stores.
They must have been in close contact with each other, possibly members of an international crime organization, authorities said, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun.
News reports don’t indicate that any of the suspects have been apprehended.
Since they were making withdrawals from accounts in another countries and banks were closed on Sunday, the criminals bought themselves some time before the fraud was discovered.
Japanese authorities plan to identify the suspects using security camera footage.
They also plan to cooperate with Interpol to contact the South African bank, which wasn’t named, to figure out how the credit card data was stolen in the first place.
Credit card fraud has been a massive problem in the United States, with retailers losing $32 billion to the crime in 2014, according to Business Insider.
There are two most common methods that are used to steal credit card data:
- Hacking. Criminals breach the systems of companies that handle credit card data. Like the breach of the Target payment system that leaked information on 40 million credit cards in 2013. Or the breach of Home Depot in 2014 that leaked up to 56 million credit cards.
- Skimming. Criminals install a small device on the card slot on an ATM machine to scan the magnetic strips of cards inserted. Sometimes they also install a miniature camera on the ATM to record customers punching in their PINs.
Debit-card skimming at ATMs on bank property increased by 174 percent in the first 100 days of 2015, compared with the same period in 2014, and successful attacks at non-bank ATMs rose by 317 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Banks have been countering the problem with new security features, including issuing cards with chips that can’t be as easily skimmed as those with magnetic strips.