Cayman targeted in cloned card scam

‘Chip and PIN’ system mooted to improve security

Detectives are investigating allegations that criminal gangs are sending “pawns” to the Cayman Islands on high-value shopping sprees using cloned credit cards and fake identification documents.  

The investigation, prompted by three recent court cases involving Malaysian con men, has sparked fears that the island is seen as an easy target for card fraud, 

Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Islands Bankers Association expressed support for a U.K.-style “chip and PIN” card system, which requires consumers to enter their personal identification number whenever they make a purchase. The PIN activates a tiny computer chip when the card’s metallic strip is swiped. The system helps guard against the use of stolen or cloned cards. 

Their comments follow a judge’s call for Cayman’s business leaders to look into chip and PIN. 

Justice Charles Quin said there appears to be an “epidemic” of such crimes and suggested banks and businesses investigate improving card security. 

Three visiting Malaysian nationals have been jailed in the past three months for attempting to use fake cards to rack up purchases worth thousands of dollars in Cayman Islands stores.  

In the most recent case, Tan Tek Kuan, 38, was jailed for 16 months when he was found with 50 fake cards and a forged passport after trying to make more than $70,000 worth of purchases in downtown jewelry stores. 

In all three recent cases, the fraudsters were said to be “pawns” acting on the instructions of a “handler.”  

Detective Inspector Ian Lavine told the Cayman Compass that the Financial Crime Unit is investigating allegations that people were being sent to the Cayman Islands to commit this type of crime, and has alerted the business community to the threat. 

Wil Pineau, chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce, said it is advising members to be vigilant, to check card signatures against a picture ID, and report suspicious behavior immediately. 

He said “chip and PIN” could provide a long-term solution to the problem, but it would be up to the banks to implement the system. 

He said there would be costs involved in producing new cards and supplying retailers with new card reading machines, costs which would ordinarily be borne by the banks.  

Mike McWatt, president of the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, suggested it could be time to introduce the system. 

“In light of some recent [well-publicized] fraud and data breaches, it certainly seems it could be beneficial, not only for merchants accepting cards, but also as security features on business and personal cards,” Mr. McWatt said. 

But he warned it would not eradicate all types of card fraud. 

“Chip and PIN capability does make it more difficult to steal personal data and produce fraudulent cards, but it will not prevent all types of card fraud. The fraudsters are gaining more technical expertise and frauds are becoming more sophisticated, but chip and PIN is very effective in preventing cloning of cards,” he said. 

The system, used in the U.K. and Ireland but not yet in the U.S., replaces the process of swiping a magnetic strip and signing a receipt with a new generation of card readers that scan a tiny chip embedded in the card, and activated by plugging in the correct personal identification number. The system requires consumers to input their PIN number every time they make a purchase. 


  1. This is another reason banks should not try to force customers to use debit or credit cards and internet banking. The banks are now charging to use ATMs and just for coming into the bank to cash a cheque.

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