Man jailed over fraud technology

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An international computer whizz-kid was jailed today after trying to bring new bank card scamming technology into Britain.

German Thomas Beeckmann, 26, was stopped in June at Victoria coach station having just arrived from Holland.

Police found 17 electronic circuits capable of stealing £150 million a year from chip and PIN machines.

Caroline Haughey, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey three of the devices had already been adapted to be used with bluetooth.

It meant that for the first time crooks could automatically get banking details as cards were fed into ATMs at banks or during purchases at stores.

The crook would receive the details on to his laptop or mobile phone up to 100 metres away, she said.

Beeckmann was thought to have been on his way to demonstrate the technology to potential buyers in the UK.

But he had refused to give investigators the password for his encrypted laptop which prevented finding further evidence to charge him with more serious offences.

Miss Haughey said: "This is a new level of sophistication because of the remote control capability."

Beeckmann had adapted his circuits for use in shops. "One could easily achieve £25,000 a day. The figures could be astronomical," she said.

Beeckmann, a software expert living in Thailand, pleaded guilty to having the 17 circuits for use in fraud and failure to disclose his password.

He was jailed for a total of three years.

Judge Anthony Morris told him: "It seems to have been a dummy run.

"This equipment showed levels of sophistication not previously seen by investigators in this country."

Outside court, Detective Inspector Steve Wilkinson said: "It is a constant battle by criminals to beat new security systems.

"Beeckmann is a top engineer and he is at the cutting edge."