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Polish banks were attacked by thieves

Some banks in Polnad including the local units of UniCredit SpA and ING Groep NV were attacked by thieves who stole customers' ATM card information and cleaned out their accounts by withdrawing money just before Christmas.

PKO Bank Polski SA, the country's largest bank, blocked 320 cards that were used in the central Polish town of Aleksandrow Kujawski, Izabela Swiderek-Kowalczyk, a spokeswoman for the bank, said by phone. She declined to give the value of the losses. ING Bank Slaski SA canceled dozens of cards in recent days because of suspected fraud. Bank Zachodni SA, a unit of Allied Irish Banks Plc, blocked 166 cards on Dec. 23 in Kolobrzeg, northwestern Poland.

Most of the 30 million cards issued by Poland's banks have only magnetic strips rather than microprocessor chips, making it easier for thieves to scan their information, according to the Polish Banks Association. All cards will have chips by 2011, the group says.

"It's a rule that the attacks come in periods when clients are less cautious" about devices attached to ATMs "or are performing many transactions, such as before the holidays or during the vacation season," Piotr Utrata, a Slaski spokesman, said by phone.

Brian Sullivan, a Warsaw English teacher from Byram, New Jersey, lost more than 5,000 zloty ($1,605) from his account at Bank Pekao SA a few days before Christmas last year.

The thieves managed to withdraw more than the daily limit for his card at ATMs in Bulgaria. The bank told him he'll get his money back within a month from the date of the theft.

Date: 13.01.2009 [213]
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