Three suspected bank card thieves were nabbed in Port Elizabeth following a spending spree which took place within minutes of a woman’s bank card being stolen.
The three were arrested at 6pm on Wednesday after police spotted their vehicle, a Volkswagen Polo, in Kwazakhele. The men allegedly bought about R7 000 worth of shoes from Tekkie Town and drew almost R3 000 from a petrol station in Heugh Road, Walmer, within an hour of the card being stolen.
Taniel Cicognini’s bank card was stolen while she was drawing money at the First National Bank ATM in Heugh Road, Walmer, at about 2pm on Wednesday.
On the same day, NMMU student Chris Harding, 30, was attacked and bitten while drawing money at a First National Bank ATM in Rink Street. Yesterday, Cicognini said it was a mystery how the thief took the card so quickly and went on a 45-minute spending spree.
She said the card must have been stolen within the seconds she was at the ATM trying to draw money. She had been waiting to use an ATM and, when the man who had been using the machine left, put her card in as normal.
“I then put my pin in and thought that something was wrong as the screen was different,” she said.
“The next thing the guy came back and pressed buttons.
“At that stage, I was pressing cancel but nothing was happening.” When she alerted bank staff, they said their systems were sporadically on and off line.
“I refused to leave and eventually they opened the ATM and the card was not there,” Cicognini said.
“I was screaming at the [FNB] guy, saying it must be there.
“A short while later, the woman [another FNB employee] came back, saying that they had cancelled my card but, by that stage, they [the alleged thieves] had already gone on a spree.
“I really do not know how he stole it so quickly without me seeing.
“We [first] thought my card had been swallowed by the machine.” Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said three suspects were arrested a few hours later outside a house in Kwazakhele after CCTV footage from the bank identified the getaway car.
In Harding’s case, two women, accompanied by a man, allegedly tried to con him in a similar manner.
While he was waiting to use the ATM, the man in front of him answered a phone call and invited Harding to use the ATM in the interim.
Harding’s card was rejected by the machine and the three suspects crowded around the ATM, claiming they wanted to help him. One of the women then allegedly switched his card and a scuffle ensued.
Janse van Rensburg said detectives were establishing if the three arrested on Wednesday were possibly linked to a larger syndicate.
“The vehicle used in the crime was a rental car and has been impounded,” she said. “The cellphones taken from the suspects will also be sent to the cyber crime branch to establish if there is a connection to a syndicate.”
The three men will appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court today on charges of fraud.