50 cases of fraudulent money withdrawal reported in 10 days

The City police commissionerate is being flooded with complaints of large sums of money being siphoned off bank accounts, raising suspicion that a credit card cloning gang is operational yet again. Multi-national financial services provider VISA recently alerted banks on escalating bogus card usage in ATMs in the Chennai region.

On March 1, automotive designer Merwin Thompson from Tambaram was shocked to realise that Rs. 44,000 had been taken in three withdrawals from ATMs. “My credit card was very much with me but I don’t know how the withdrawal took place,” said Thompson, one of the many Chennaiites who have approached the city police in the last month.

In the last ten days, close to 50 complaints of fraudulent money withdrawal have been reported to the Bank Fraud Wing of the Central Crime Branch (CCB) at the Commissonerate in Vepery.

The overall amount siphoned off could run upto Rs. 40 lakh, police sources said.

In 2012, gangs that had siphoned off over Rs. 1.5 crore by cloning credit cards were busted. Their modus operandi involved copying card details of bank customers using skimmer devices from ATMs. “We then discovered 64 minute cameras that were placed above ATM dial pads in various kiosks in the city. We suspect that the gangs are back again,” added a risk manager attached to a well-known nationalised bank.

CCB teams on the case suspect that card data is compromised at ATM kiosks, petrol stations, super markets and restaurants.

“The possibility of advanced wi-fi skimmer devices being planted inside ATMs by culprits to copy card details can’t be ruled out. Installation of pocket cameras to capture PIN of cards used by customers at ATMs is also being thoroughly inspected,” said a senior officer with the CCB.

A special team is tailing a card cloning gang in city and expects a breakthrough soon. Meanwhile, city police has advised credit and debit card users to exercise caution. They have been asked not to divulge PIN to strangers at the point of sale.

Online users have been advised to make payments at reliable sites and not fall prey to phishing mails seeking bank account details.

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