Japanese police are investigating a case of international credit-card fraud in which about 1.44 billion yen, or more than $13 million, was illegally withdrawn with forged credit cards from 1,400 automated teller machines in convenience stores around Japan, according to investigative sources.
Police suspect that a group of more than 100 people extracted the money from the ATMs, which were located in Tokyo and 16 prefectures, over a period of about two and a half hours on May 15.
Since the cards were forged based on data leaked about credit cards issued by a bank in South Africa, police believe that an international criminal organization is involved. They are therefore planning to cooperate with overseas investigative organizations.
According to the sources, the ATMs are in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, Fukuoka and other prefectures. May 15 was a Sunday and all the money was withdrawn over a period from a little past 5 a.m. to shortly before 8 a.m.
Each transaction involved the removal of 100,000 yen, or about $900, the maximum withdrawal limit set for ATMs, and there were more than 14,000 transactions in the case.
The fraud came to light following a report from a bank that installed some of the ATMs.
After examining records of the ATM transactions, it was found that data related to about 1,600 credit cards issued by the South African bank were used. It is highly likely that the suspects abused the cashing function of the credit cards after forging the cards based on card data illegally obtained by hacking or other methods.
Police believe the suspects attempted to delay the revelation of the crime by withdrawing the money outside the nation where the cards were issued. They suspect the more than 100 perpetrators were in close contact with each other.
Police intend to identify the suspects by analyzing the images recorded by security cameras. They also plan to examine how the credit card data was leaked, in cooperation with the South African authorities via Interpol.
Experts have indicated the presence of international criminal organizations since similar cases have been reported in many other countries in recent years. In those cases too, cash was fraudulently withdrawn from ATMs with credit cards forged with leaked card data.