Tech-savvy culprits commit white-collar crime such as misuse of credit cards, diverting funds through Internet by cracking passwords, writes S. Vijay Kumar

With computerisation at all levels of business, it would be no exaggeration to say that banking industry has become prone to frauds.

The most vulnerable domain is the electronic mode of transaction such as automated teller machines, credit cards, de-mat accounts and Internet banking. Perhaps, it was this advent of new technology crimes that prompted the ICICI Bank to organise a workshop on 'Banking frauds and its prevention' in association with the police in the city early this week.

When senior ICICI Bank officials presented case examples of white-collar crime, some police officials at the workshop were puzzled at the novel modus operandi of new generation criminals. Misusing credit cards, diverting funds through Internet banking by cracking passwords and forgery were among emerging crimes at metros.

"The potential for fraud in a computerised transaction environment is not only greater but much more difficult to track down. When successfully committed, such crimes could multiply financial losses of banks to unimaginable levels. "White-collar criminals are educated and have a sound knowledge of banking system," says the ICICI Chief Manager, Amit Lamba.

The objective of the workshop was to create an atmosphere where both bank and law enforcing agencies could pool their expertise to combat the threat of financial frauds. "The advent of large scale computerisation in banking operations has opened new dimensions to the concept of fraud and has highlighted the need to review and evolve a comprehensive fraud prevention mechanism."

Smooth operators

A recent instance of a technical fraud took place in Madurai when two engineering students of a private college attempted to break open the ATM of a nationalised bank in Karimedu police station limits. The boys almost laid their hands on the cash box containing over Rs. 15 lakh. However, their failure to open the password-enabled box delayed the job.

The students tactfully managed to open the ATM machine, ensured that their images were not captured by the concealed camera and stopped short of stealing the cash.

The last entry details recorded by the swiping of ATM card was the only clue to nab the duo and forensic experts were perplexed that even the fingerprints of suspects could not be found.

In a more recent case, a senior cardiologist lodged a complaint with the Anna Nagar police that a hospital employee misused his card to steal Rs. 3 lakh from the ATM.

The workshop sent a clear message that banks should recognise the potential threat of computerised frauds and focus on its prevention. It also helped the local police to have a better perspective of banking operations.