Slim skimmer device used in ATMs to obtain details of victims' cards

A gang that robbed 64 persons in the city of over Rs.30 lakh last month after making fake bank cards has been busted by the Bank Fraud Wing of Central Crime Branch (CCB).

The gang members used a slim skimmer device that they placed inside the card slots of four ATMs, in different locations, to obtain details of the victim's card details, including the PIN.

Five members of the gang, including its kingpin, Umesh alias Shorty (27), a Sri Lankan national, have been arrested. Shorty, according to the police, a known offender, was arrested twice earlier in connection with fake credit card cases.

CCB police launched investigations after Commissioner of Police J.K. Tripathy received complaints from 64 persons last month stating that someone had drawn large sums of money from their bank accounts.

When the victims made enquiries with their banks, the officials told them that the money had been drawn using ATM cards.

On the directions of the Commissioner, a CCB team headed by Assistant Commissioner of Police (Bank Fraud), A.John Rose conducted investigations and found that the money was drawn from four ATMs – in West Mambalam, Kilpauk, Kotturpuram and Saidapet.

“The gang opted for the four ATMs because these facilities had neither a security guard nor a CCTV camera. We gathered information about the movement of people who visited the kiosks and details of calls made and received on mobile phones of those who came to the ATMs. During the cell phone trace, our team zeroed in on a mobile phone number, which was used at all the four ATMs,” Mr.John said.

After further investigation, police identified the suspect as Umesh, who along with his gang members, made fake ATM cards and used them to draw money on a number of occasions.

“One such card was used by Umesh at an ATM fitted with a CCTV camera leading to his identification and subsequent arrest,” the officer said.

On Tuesday night, Umesh and his accomplices Vivian (24) and Rajendran (29), both Sri Lankan nationals, Udayakumar (39) and Jayakumar (23) were apprehended from a house in Kovilambakkam.

They confessed to having inserted film-thin skimmer devices made in China, worth $ 2,000 each and purchased online, in the card slots of the four ATMs. The devices with a two-day battery life are capable of capturing card details, including the PIN, through an advanced sensor panel when a customer uses the card issued by the bank. They replaced the skimmer devices every two days and used the information to make fake cards, Mr. John said.

A skimmer device, an encoder used to transfer the victims' card details to the fake cards, 66 fake cards, four laptops and three cars were seized from them.

A search is on to track down other members of the gang, recover the stolen money and other equipment used.

Cyber Society of India vice-president and former banker V. Rajendran said that advanced skimmer devices with sensors can detect the movement of fingers on the numeric pad on the ATM.

“Earlier, a pinhole camera on the skimmer placed inside the card slot was used by culprits to read the PIN number. Now the fraudsters have gone one step ahead,” Mr. Rajendran, who is doing his doctoral research on bank fraud.

The police have advised ATM users to inspect card slots for any suspicious objects and change PIN numbers of their bank cards at frequent intervals.

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Petlee PeterJune 28, 2012