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Police in São Paulo warn of new type of crime with Brazil’s PIX instant payment system

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After almost a year of unprecedented success, the Central Bank’s instant payment platform, PIX, is linked to a new type of crime in the city of São Paulo. It consists of holding the victim, even if only for a few minutes, in his car. The goal of the criminals is to carry out, under threat, a transfer of money through PIX.

The perpetrators of this type of crime range from casual thieves to specialized gangs that explore the victim’s daily routine, approach him, overpower him, and, if necessary, take him into custody. Meanwhile, another team, skilled in electronic means, manages the accounts to which the amounts obtained through crime are transferred.

Be careful at night when you have to stand alone with your car at the traffic light.
Be careful at night when you have to stand alone with your car at the traffic light. (Photo internet reproduction)

Police officer Eduardo Brotero, from the Strategic Police Operations Department (DOPE) of the São Paulo Public Security Secretariat (SSP), explains: “The issue has security forces worried. New technologies bring conveniences, but also burdens.” Although he does not cite statistics, the detective says the number of incidents has increased.

The simplicity of operations is already attracting criminals. “In the past, there was the option of taking the victim to an ATM, which was a greater risk. If the card was used, the money could be charged back, while the settlement of the TED took some time. Now everything happens very quickly.”

The police can identify the account where the money was deposited, whether a physical or digital bank. However, usually, the money has already been transferred to several other accounts or withdrawn at the counter and cannot be traced.

The accounts into which the money is deposited are either set up with fake documents or rented by accountants (who receive a percentage of the funds obtained from the crime and can be sentenced along with the criminals), or they are run by people who do not even know that an account has been opened in their name by the fraudsters.


Since Oct. 4, Pix users have been subject to a limit of R$1,000 for transfers between individuals between 8 PM and 6OPM the next day, according to Central Bank decisions. The measure is part of a package of ongoing implementations consistent with the regulations adopted by the Central Bank to reduce the impact of payment instruments related to public safety.

The Central Bank notes that Pix has a robust security framework based on four dimensions: User authentication, transaction traceability, secure data traffic through the national financial system network, and operating rules with standardized procedures and mechanisms to protect users.

However, he stresses that system security “should be understood as a dynamic discipline that requires constant updating, as new forms of attack frequently emerge.”

Police offer some advice for anyone who may fall victim to this type of crime. “It is the usual advice: do not react, do not make sudden gestures, and speak calmly. Try to meet the demands of criminals. When it comes to property and life, we give priority to life.”

There are also ways to prevent crime. “It is essential to be extra vigilant in remote locations and at times when you could be a potential victim. It is not advisable to walk with a cell phone in your hand, be distracted by the device in a parked car, or while stopped at a traffic light.”

Another recommended action is to report an incident to the police, an important measure to make the crime visible and help the police investigation, which later allows the identification and arrest of criminal gangs.

Finally, the national banking lobby Febraban also recommends the use of the Meus Limites feature available in banks’ applications. The tool is designed to allow customers to request an increase or decrease in PIX limits as needed.

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