Members of card-cloning syndicate in court

Four people arrested in White River for alleged card cloning are expected to appear in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Thursday, Mpumalanga police said.

The four, who were arrested on Tuesday, would face charges of fraud and corruption, said Captain Leonard Hlathi.

Their appearance comes after six others, including a police officer, were arrested over the weekend. The two groups are allegedly part of a sophisticated card-cloning syndicate.

The six appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Monday on charges of fraud, corruption and possession of a stolen firearm. They are White River detective Constable Zakhele Mkhatshwa, 27, Mpendulo Shiba, 25, Thabo Tsela, 22, Bongani Nyerenda, 23, Dennis De Beer, 30, and Dumisani Mkhatshwa, 33.

The group was arrested after a member of the public reported unauthorised transactions on her account after she used her card at a music store in Nelspruit. Police investigations led to a store cashier, who was allegedly found in possession of a card skimming device. He then led police to two other suspects and two more cloning devices were allegedly found in their cars.

Two more accused were arrested in Kanyamazane, where police confiscated a 9mm pistol, two laptops, one card reprinter, several cloned cards from South Africa and other countries.

A Fifa cash access card, which can be used at Fifa-accredited businesses, was also recovered, with a fake ID photo on it.

These five led investigators to police officer Mkhatshwa. He was released on R5000 bail shortly before the group appeared in court on Monday, because he found himself a lawyer immediately after his arrest on Saturday.

Prosecutor Tobie Steyn said police were still conducting investigations after "numerous" credit and debit cards belonging to World Cup visitors were recovered from the accused. He said one of the cards had a R53,000 transaction made on it.

The card cloning bust has prompted police to warn the public and visitors to be vigilant when using their bank cards, as they had noted an increase in card cloning in Mpumalanga.

"Skimming occurs most frequently at retail outlets that process credit cards for payments, particularly bars, restaurants and petrol stations," Hlathi said.

"The modus operandi involves a corrupt employee who swipes a card of a customer for a transaction, then skims it in a small handheld electronic... device that scans and stores the card data from the magnetic strip.

"The employee then hands over the card to the criminals he or she is working with. They then fraudulently download the data to their equipment," Hlathi said.

After this is completed, criminals then download the information of a customer's card to other cards, such as gift or other shop cards with a magnetic strip.

"When all is said and done, they then withdraw money from your account using these cards," Hlathi said.

Any card crime can be reported to the nearest police station or by calling 10111 or crime stop on 08600-1011. - Sapa

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