Thursday, 18 March 2021


 POLICE in Bulawayo have arrested a suspected 56-year-old fraudster who went on shopping sprees using cloned bank cards, fleecing companies and members of the public of over $500 000.

James Malolo from Emthunzini suburb was on Wednesday found in possession of 78 active Zimswitch cards belonging to various corporates and individuals which he has allegedly been using to lavishly shop at supermarkets and wholesale outlets.

Card-cloning is the duplicating of bank cards by criminals after acquiring information contained in the magnetic strip of the card.

Normally, criminals will have a copy that they use to make transactions and the owner of the card may only find out when money suddenly starts disappearing from their account.

Card cloning has become rampant in Zimbabwe as syndicates are taking advantage of the uptake of plastic money by business organisations and members of the public.

Fraudsters need to distract victims for a fraction of a second to put their ATM cards through a “card skimming” machine to make duplicates.

Malolo ran out of luck on Tuesday when a woman based in Harare was tipped off by an alert till operator at a wholesaler in the city, that someone had just used her banking details to make a $12 000 transaction.

Upon verifying and looking at the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, the wholesaler identified Malolo as the culprit and realised he was a regular customer. Malolo went back to the same wholesale on Wednesday which led to his arrest.

Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube yesterday said police have linked Malolo to a number of ATM card scams including a similar case where Nyaradzo Funeral Assurance Company lost $203 673 after someone mysteriously swiped for groceries and withdrew cash earlier this year.

Insp Ncube said members of the public who got unexplained deductions from their banks should approach the police in case they are Malolo’s victims. He applauded members of the public for helping police with information that led to Malolo’s arrest.

“Police officers in Bulawayo from the Commercial Crimes Division based at Drill Hall, received a tip-off that there was a person who was in the business of cloning cards. The man is originally from Hwange and was caught after using a card belonging to a woman in Harare,” said Insp Ncube.

“He is linked with four other crimes that we have confirmed and upon searching him, our members recovered 78 cards which we are yet to establish if they have been used to commit crime.”

Insp Ncube said Malolo is helping police with investigations and will appear in court soon.

“I appeal to those facing discrepancies in their accounts to visit their banks and study their account to see if there is anything amiss. If they suspect that their accounts have been tampered with, they may approach our offices and we trace in case their cards have been cloned.”

Insp Ncube said the Nyaradzo incident occurred on December 20 when the accountant at the funeral assurance company gave an ATM card to Genesis Mlala (35), residing at Pumula East, who is the internal security officer in the company, to buy groceries for the kitchen.

Upon making a transaction at OK Mart, the card declined due to lack of funds, said Insp Ncube.

Investigations were carried out by the company and an online bank statement request revealed that an unknown person swiped using the company ATM card at various shops in the city centre and made withdrawals without company approval.

According to the police, 154 cases of card cloning were reported in 2018 and US$200 000 was lost within three months.  In 2019 some banks in the country suspended balance enquiry on all POS devices to stem card cloning fraud. Chronicle


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