Be it executives at the bank, shopkeepers at the mall or fuel station, data from your debit/credit card is at risk of being stolen like never before

Cloning of bank cards – both credit and debit – is alarmingly on the rise. Till recently, duplicate bank cards were created mostly by gangs operating abroad.

These gangs would steal card data, and through middlemen, sell cloned cards to offenders here, who would use them for illegal transactions, resulting in losses for the original cardholder. But of late, there have numerous reports of the card data of local persons being stolen.

The Hyderabad Central Crime Station Cyber Crime wing recently cracked one such case, bringing to light an interesting modus operandi. The prime accused, a bank BPO staffer, colluded with two employees of a petrol bunk and gave them a skimmer — a gadget the size of a mobile phone.

When a customer’s card is swiped at the bunk, the electronic code data of the card is copied by the skimmer. The data is then retrieved and used to create a duplicate card.

“This indicates that not just international criminals, but locals too indulge in cloning cards,” points out an investigator. The new modus operandi is posing a fresh challenge to police, who however say their role is limited to preventing such frauds.

The primary source for stealing card data is the bank’s wing in-charge of credit/debit cards. Executives having access to the customers’ database and hackers have been found to be the accused in some cases.

Unsuspecting cardholders are the next source from where the data is fraudulently obtained. This happens mostly when the customer presents his card for payment of bills at petrol bunks, hotels, malls or shops.

To prevent this, inculcating awareness among customers on the risks involved is crucial. Shop owners too, if they take care to confirm the identity of those producing duplicate cards, can help prevent such frauds, police say.

Secondly, it was found that some shop owners themselves were resorting to illegal methods. Some of them would swipe the card given by the customer though the latter doesn’t purchase any article. A fake bill for that transaction, say, for example Rs. 10,000, is created.

By swiping the card, money from the account of the original cardholder is transferred to that of the shop owner.

Since no purchase was made, he would give Rs. 9,000 to the customer, keeping Rs. 1,000 as his commission. Such illegal practices are only helping gangs clone bank cards.

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