Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 29th 2015 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Tuesday, December 29, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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for 28TH DECEMBER, 2015
Customers using ATM bank cards are being
advised to exercise caution to protect their
Personal Identification Number (PIN) infor-
mation following debit card "skimming"
which affected some accounts over the Christ-
mas holiday weekend.
Checks by T&T Guardian confirmed the
problem---involving fraudulently-obtained cus-
tomer information---had occurred.
The banking industry definition of "skim-
ming" refers to the use of fraudulent methods
to obtain customer details by "skimming their
debit/credit cards at point of use, whether
ATM or Point of Sale.
Most commonly, the modus operandi
involves attaching a mechanism or disguised
device to the ATM s card entry point that
skims (retrieves and records data) off customer
cards. The data is then applied to a counterfeit
card by the fraudulent operators and used to
withdraw cash or purchase goods/services in
T&TG was told that the large scale "skim-
ming" attacks are primarily the work of
transnational operators, who target a specific
country, obtain data and then use the coun-
terfeit cards they are able to produce in foreign
The Bankers Association of T&T (BATT)
discussed the matter yesterday and subse-
quently issued the following statement.
"The Bankers Association of T&T aware
that clients of some commercial banks have
been affected by debit card skimming. In this
Housing Minister Marlene Mc Donald says
she does not own a Housing Development
Corporation (HDC) allocated home.
She said this in an interview last night after
being referred to the Integrity Commission
from Opposition UNC Senator Wayne Sturge.
McDonald said she purchased her own home
privately in 1995 and could not claim ownership
of any other house. She did not say where she
lives."Let him go to the commission. Let the
Integrity Commission do what they have to
do. This is nothing but a wild goose chase,"
Mc Donald said."
Sturge yesterday referred Mc Donald to the
Commission over allegations that she used her
office to obtain a townhouse for one Michael
Carew, described as her common law hus-
The allegation dates back to 2008, when
Mc Donald was the Minister of Community
Development, Culture and Gender Affairs.
Sturge s action comes one month after for-
mer housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal
claimed he had evidence that a sitting PNM
Cabinet Minister owned an HDC house and
paid for it with cash. There s no independent
confirmation, in Sturge s submission, whether
the minister referred to was McDonald.
In a telephone interview late yesterday
evening, Mc Donald said there was no HDC
house in her name.
Mc Donald said she took her position as a
government minister very seriously and added
that there had been earlier claims about a sim-
"When I heard another former minister
make claims that someone in the PNM had
purchased an HDC home I wrote to the CEO
which Cabinet minister owned an HDC home.
"I got an answer from her in writing and
it said no cabinet minister owned an HDC
home. I still have that letter.
Mc Donald, who referred to Sturge as a
stranger, said she found it curious, that the
attorney claimed to know her personal busi-
"I do not know him. We have never spoken
to each other outside of Parliament."
She said Carew was being treated unfair-
"Any citizen of this country is free to go to
the HDC an apply for a house. Whether or
not you know the minister, HDC has to do
their assessment and then they make their
decision. I dare anyone at HDC to say I asked
them to give Mr Carew a house."
"If he decides to buy a home, he is not a
person in public life he can do so."
Documents obtained by the Guardian
detailed correspondence allegedly from Mc
Donald s then advisor Odette Alexander, to
then acting Housing Development Corporation
(HDC) managing director Margaret Chow, and
Lauren Legall, the Allocations Manager at the
The documents showed requests made,
allegedly on Mc Donald s behalf, for a housing
unit to be allocated to Mc Donald s partner,
Carew, at Fidelis Heights.
Fidelis Heights is a development of and
managed by the HDC in St Augustine.
Asked about these letters, Mc Donald only
said that she never had an advisor between
2007 and 2010.
"Miss Odette Alexander was not my advi-
According to the documents, recommen-
dations were made in August and September
of 2008 for Carew to be allocated a unit.
The recommendation of the minister was
then allegedly acted upon by the acting manager
Margaret Chow who approved the allocation
of the unit to Carew on December 3, 2008.
Carew, allegedly made the payment for the
townhouse the next day.
Sturge says the matter is "most serious"
and "troubling" in light of the fact that Mc
Donald presently held the portfolio of Housing
"If these allegations are found to be true,
as prima facie the evidence seems to suggest,
it would not be right for such a person to con-
tinue to hold such office and be vested with
th the powers of the office holder.
"In the public interest and in the proper
discharge of its functions under the Act, I here-
by call upon the commission to investigate this
complaint forthwith and to give this investi-
gation priority," Sturge wrote.
The documents also included a bank state-
ment, cheque and other documents related to
the alleged incident.
Sturge is asking the Commission investigate
whether McDonald used her position as a Min-
ister of Government to recommend her spouse
be allocated the unit.
The unit, which Sturge alleged was never
occupied by either Mc Donald or Carew, was
rented out since its allocation and the senator
says this should also be investigated.
"This townhouse is a unit that ought to have
been allocated to a deserving member of the
public but instead it appears that it has been
allocated to Mr Carew and is being used as an
income generating asset," Sturge claimed.
instance, the Association is aware the incidents originated
at one of our member banks. Each bank has been working
closely with its affected clients to resolve this situation.
"Fraud incidents such as debit card skimming are a
global issue and clients must remain vigilant at all times
to protect their PIN numbers and other account infor-
mation. The best line of defence against fraud is an
informed consumer. BATT continues to work with its
member banks and other stakeholders in educating
clients against all forms of bank fraud.
"With respect to the specific occurrence, clients are
advised to immediately contact their bank directly if
they suspect any unauthorised activity has taken place
on their account."
In a check among BATT members earlier yesterday,
RBC Royal Bank via a statement, had said it was aware
of a number of clients who had been impacted by debit
RBC said a small percentage of clients - about 200
- were affected and the bank had identified the points
RBC said the bank had already addressed most of
the affected clients yesterday. Most of them would already
have been reimbursed, RBC added.
RBC s systems which picked up on the problem when
it occurred over the weekend, blocked accounts, locked
out culprits, and alerted customers to contact the bank.
Yesterday, several affected customers were seen
among the numbers in the "Accounts Services" line
(handling Standing Orders, drafts and other services) at
RBC Royal Bank s Independence Square branch, Port of
Several confirmed "skimming" affected funds in US
sums from their account.
One customer for example was hit by six occurrences
of skimming on Christmas Day and right after, withdrawn
in US funds totalling almost $10,000 (TT).
On what action was being taken to trace the situation
to source and halt it, TTG was told yesterday that official
investigations are underway into the matter.
Scotiabank T&T Ltd s Richard Estrado said "People
also need to be careful with point of sale (LINX) trans-
actions to secure their PINs so persons around them
cannot get hold of that information."
Industry sources told TTG, care should also be exer-
cised by customers using off-site ATMs---those which
are not attached to a bank. FCB official referred to BATT s
statement. A spokesman for Republic Bank said declined
Savers lose thousands in bank scam
Marlene in ethics accusation over house
Minister says Fidelis Heights home is not hers
Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge.
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