Accused dupe 20 account holders of Rs. 1.5 crore

A gang fraudulently withdrawing money from Internet banking accounts of different customers and ensuring the latter didn’t receive alerts on mobile phones by getting deactivated their SIM cards, was busted by the police on Monday.

The Punjagutta police arrested 10 members of the gang, including a Nigerian, who allegedly duped 20 Internet banking account-holders of nearly Rs. 1.5 crore in this fashion. The kingpin of the racket, also a Nigerian, is operating from his country and is yet to be arrested, the West zone DCP, Stephen Ravindra, said at a press conference.

The mastermind behind the racket, Tony of Nigeria, allegedly steals crucial details of customers having online accounts with different banks. “We’re not yet sure how Tony acquires this information. It could be by hacking or they are targeting online account-holders randomly,” the DCP said. Tony sends the details of the Internet banking accounts to his agent Sunny Uce, Nigerian, through text messages over phones and emails. Uce, in turn, passes on the details to other members of the gang. Before transferring the money from the account of the victim, the gang first gets that person’s mobile phone deactivated by calling up the mobile phone service provider. Posing as that customer, the accused complains that his mobile phone was stolen.

Fake identity cards

“Kindly block the SIM card and issue me a duplicate one,” the gang requests the company’s call centre. They would present fake identity cards in support of their claim. When the mobile phone is deactivated, the offenders immediately log into that customer’s Internet bank account and transfer money to an account of their choice and later withdraw it. Alert about the Internet bank transaction is sent to the customer’s phone.

“The original customer doesn’t receive the alert since his SIM card was blocked. The text message goes to the duplicate SIM card which would be in the hands of the fraudster,” the police said.

Only when the account holder checks his email or bank account would the fraud come to light. A private company chief executive officer, Anil Sikka, was defrauded of Rs. 5 lakh from his account in June first week. He learnt about it five days later while checking the transactions online. The money was transferred into an account-holder based in Visakhapatnam.

From there, the trail led police to West Bengal, Bangalore and Tamil Nadu leading to the arrest of 10 persons. This included, D. Venkateswara Rao, an executive of Airtel company, who issued duplicate SIM card to the gang without verifying the details.

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