Ghy cops bust gang of ATM fraudsters
Cyber crime, according to the Assam Police DGP Mukesh Sahay, is on the rise in the state and is being committed more than other crimes. Recently, the city police busted a massive nexus of cyber criminals who forge people’s ATM cards and withdraw money from their accounts besides using the cards for shopping at various places. Definitely a novelty as a criminal act, what is the modus operandi and who all are involved? How many people have been arrested in the case? How did police manage to nab the culprits? G Plus looks into the entire incident.
On 17th January last, a lady named Minu Maya Gohain lodged an FIR at Paltan Bazar police station stating that some miscreants had withdrawn a huge amount of money from her savings account at SBI South Guwahati branch. She also informed her bank about the incident and blocked the ATM card. She further informed the police that she was in North Lakhimpur between 11th January and 15th January, 2017. A case (case number -60/17 under section 420 IPC read with sec 66 IT Act) was registered in Paltan Bazar police station. Accordingly, the city police crime branch got involved with the Paltan Bazar police to crack the case.
The crime branch team along with Paltan Bazar police took up the matter and discussed the case with SBI officials and thereafter clues were collected. Technical analysis of the matter by the city police led to the apprehension of three accused persons namely Shariful Islam alias Shamim (mastermind), Jiaur and Saddam from flat number CIII of Seventh Heaven apartment located near Sarusajai Stadium. All were residents of Howly, Barpeta. While searching the apartment one small card reader, one writer (machine used to transfer data to blank magnetic strips on cards), two laptops, 25 magnetic strip cards which they cloned as ATM cards of victims and thereafter used it for shopping and withdrawal of money from ATMs, mobile handsets and other valuable items purchased by the accused. The cloned ATM cards used to withdraw the victims’ money and the laptop purchased by the accused from Big Bazaar were also recovered. So what was the modus operandi?
According to sources in the crime branch, the gang of criminals usually wait outside various ATMs – mainly ones which are out of order for reasons such as link failure or money exhaustion. Unaware people enter such ATM booths and are unable to withdraw money. The miscreants then, on the pretext of helping them, enter the booths and cleverly swipe the targeted person’s ATM card with their card reader thereby stealing the data from the debit card. Thereafter, they clone another magnetic striped card and prepare a newly formed debit card with the writer which is thereafter used for withdrawing money and making purchases. The required PIN information is collected by peeking over the shoulder while the victim tries to withdraw money from the ATM. The arrested people were thoroughly interrogated and it was known by the police that they had duplicated several ATM cards with the same method all across the state.
The police have again warned that given this modus operandi people should remember never to hand over their ATM cards to unknown people for whatever reason. During investigation it came to light that this gang of criminals were people of suspicious and doubtful character right from the initial stage and this was noticed by the residents of Seventh Heaven apartment. But neither the owner nor the other residents of the apartment informed the local police station. The police have urged that while renting out the flats, rooms etc., utmost precaution should be taken in verification of the potential tenants’ character and antecedents. The PIN numbers of the ATM cards should be changed at regular intervals. The police said that in ATMs instead of asking help from strangers, a specific helpline number mentioned in the booth by the bank authorities should be utilised to clear doubts. The police also said that while shopping the PIN number should be entered as discreetly as possible because malls have CCTV cameras installed. So it should be ensured that the PIN is not captured by CCTV cameras of the shopping malls. The criminals are now in judicial custody and quite a few police stations are questioning them as there have been several such cases of ATM fraud registered with various police stations. The state has seen a sharp rise in such crimes in recent years with the growing popularity of social networking sites and online financial transactions. A cyber crime specialist, talking to G Plus, said that unless the criminal has any kind of digital information, it is difficult for them to commit a crime, but such information can be gathered if people are careless or indiscreet with their digital information.
So a big nexus of cyber criminals have been nabbed but people need to be vigilant. If criminals cannot get hold of digital information, cyber crime is not possible.
• Minu Maya Gohain lodged an FIR at Paltan Bazar police station stating that some miscreants have withdrawn a huge amount of money from her SBI savings account
• Paltan Bazar police teamed up with crime branch and started working on the case
• The city police team contacted the SBI officials and gathered clues
• After a thorough investigation police zeroed in on an apartment near Sarusajai Stadium
• Shariful Islam alias Shamim (mastermind), Jiaur and Saddam, all residents of Howly, Barpeta were arrested from flat number CIII of Seventh Heaven apartment
• On interrogation the modus operandi was known
• The arrested people used to wait near ATMs (mainly ones which were not working for various reasons)
• When a person failed to withdraw money, they pretended to help the person and in the process swiped the card secretly with their card reader
• With the details of the customer in hand they used to clone another blank ATM card with the same info and the card was then used for withdrawals and purchases
• The arrested persons cloned many such cards across Assam and many people have been looted till date
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