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Lebanese banks recall credit cards as pre-emptive move against fraud.

Byline: Osama Habib

Summary: Many Lebanese banks are recalling their credit cards and debit cards and issuing new ones for their customers in pre-emptive move against wide spread global credit card fraud.AaSome of the bankers, who spoke toAaThe Daily StarAaon condition of anonymity, said these measures are necessary to protect their trusted customers.AaThese banks have sent SMS and emails.

BEIRUT: Many Lebanese banks are recalling their credit cards and debit cards and issuing new ones for their customers in pre-emptive move against wide spread global credit card fraud.AaSome of the bankers, who spoke to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, said these measures are necessary to protect their trusted customers.Aa

These banks have sent SMS and emails to their customers asking them to go the branches and replace their cards with new ones.Aa

The SMS justified this move for "security reasons" only.Aa

"There is no need to panic. We just want to replace these cards with new ones that have new codes. But I can assure [you] that not a single bank reported any loss from these credit-card scams," one banker told the paper.Aa

Banks estimate that more than 500,000 Lebanese use credit and debit cards. All of these cards are covered by insurance firms.Aa

Reports said that international crime organizations in Turkey, Romania, Mexico and Russia have managed to copy the data base of credit card holders in many countries of the world.Aa

Lebanese banks have cautioned their clients not to use their cards excessively in these countries and have even banned the use of credit cards in some of these states.Aa

Other banks have limited daily withdrawals of not more than $200 per day.Aa

Some on-line web sites claimed that the banks have instructed their customers not to use their credit cards in one of the ATM's in one of the malls in Beirut.Aa

Banks suspect that a scanner and a camera has been skillfully installed in one of these ATMs with the purpose of copying the magnetic card while the hidden camera takes pictures of the codes the customer enters in the ATM.Aa

The Association of Banks in Lebanon said that recalling credit cards is not part of the duty of the association.Aa

"We do not issue these cards. It is up to the Lebanese banks to recall the credit cards and issue new ones for their customers. This does not mean that Lebanese are in any danger but it is better to be safe," one association member said.Aa

Many credit and debit card holders complained that ATM machines seized their cards when they tried to withdraw money or check the balance.Aa

But these customers were told that ATMs hold old cards for security reasons only.Aa

"I eventually received a new card from my bank after being assured that my account is intact, " one customer said.Aa

The number of US identity fraud victims increased 22 percent in 2008 to 9.9 million adults. However, the total annual fraud amount jumped just 7 percent to $48 billion.Aa

According to a report, credit and debit card fraud is the number one fear of Americans in the midst of the global financial crisis. It added that concern about fraud supersedes that of terrorism, computer and health viruses and personal safety.Aa

"It is natural for Lebanese banks to be extra cautious these days. This procedure will not take too long. Once customers replace their old cards with new ones then customers can use their cards freely with great ease of mind," another bank said.

Copyright 2009, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Nov 11, 2009
Words:621
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