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Banks should amplify risk-cutting measures to counter ATM heists

Thursday April 25 2019

By OBED NYANGENA
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April ought to be considered as a month of grace, great serenity and religiosity because of Christians’ observance of Easter.

Pondering on one’s relationship with Christ and reconnecting with the ultimate prize that the Son of Man had to bear on the cross is the usual mood that characterises the celebrations, but the Holy Spirit seems not to have touched the gang of thieves who guttered down on Barclays Bank’s Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) and stole Sh14 million from four different branches on the Easter weekend.

This comes barely a month after an estimated Sh2 billion, whose authenticity remains suspect, was intercepted by the flying squad at Barclays Bank’s Queensway branch.

Assessment of the whole thing may not have found the bank’s employees culpable as they turned witnesses, but this did not water down the possibility of insider dealings.

The rapid and well-calculated moves across the ATMs is a possibility that remained true only in the movies, until it was actualised on the Easter weekend.

THEFT

Until the advent and mass adoption of digital technology, bank robberies may not have been as rampant as today. Armoured couriers and routine security guards provided protection.

Today, there’s a whirlwind of change that’s punctuated with a growing trend of cheque and card fraud, robberies at cash dispenser machines, and hacking of online accounts, often aided by insider criminals who capitalise on their access or ability to access customer details to make card withdrawals or complete online purchases.

Extended digital knowledge, mainly videos, literature and clips uploaded to various online platforms by vloggers and bloggers accentuates the latest virility of stealing money from customers and banks.

Perhaps, banks need to reconsider their recruitment mechanisms; tap talents whose integrity cannot be compromised and continuously identify weakness es and inject improvements.

VIRTUE

Restructuring and leveraging on technology and ensuring that all ATMs have CCTVs and alarms installed and are functional is key.

It defeats logic that there was a blatant delay in reporting the ATM heists with the police.

This explains why recruiting honest talents and leveraging on technology to detect and counter fraud, going forward, is not an option, but the only way.

Although just a tiny fraction of bank robbers get away, there is need to strengthen systems.

In 2017, criminals who stole Sh52 million from the Kenya Commercial Bank’s Thika branch were arrested.

In January, an Equity Bank cleaner was arrested and charged for stealing over Sh24 million, a strong indication of insider dealings in both incidents.

The Central Bank’s guidelines on cybercrime recognise that adoption of technology makes banks and customers susceptible to risks.

But continuous investment in technology will go a long way in abating these crimes.

If the trend continues, people will prefer hoarding, which is bad for the economy.