KOLKATA: A group of young unemployed engineers and students were behind the skimming of ATM machines in Kolkata. The fraud came to light after three engineering students were arrested from various parts of the city on Thursday. Skimmer machines, screwdrivers, cloned cards, CCTV cameras and other tools were recovered from the three students.
The arrest was carried out after interrogation of three Romanians who were nabbed on August 3. The Romanian gang had sent shockwaves among Kolkata residents who were scared of withdrawing money from ATMs fearing their cards could be cloned and money fraudulently withdrawn from their bank accounts. The Romanians were produced in the Kolkata sessions court on Thursday and have been remanded to police custody till August 21.
The Kolkata Police Special Investigation Team investigating the matter carried out searches at various places of the city to bust the gang. A senior Kolkata police officer told Zee News, "This is a tip of the iceberg. We have cracked the modus operandi and will crack the case in a day or two." The senior police official also admitted that during a spot check, they found that there were many unmanned ATMs in the city.
The state government had on Tuesday, held a meeting with the banking associations and had given directions to increase the security of ATMs across the city. Last week, the banking associations had said that they were unable to protect many of their ATM’s due to a shortage of staff.
After interrogating the Romanians, the SIT learnt that the gang used to lure unemployed engineers from various parts of the country. Engineering students were lured with promises of huge amounts of money to skim ATMs because of their technical abilities.
The ATMs were skimmed in April 2018 and the money withdrawal started in July end, flummoxing consumers and investigators. The arrested engineers were frequent travellers to Kolkata and used to carry out a recce of the unmanned city ATMs early in the morning. They would bug the ATM machines by the skimming device before banking hours.
They would remove the skimming tools before the night to collect the data to clone ATM cards. The arrested engineering students used to strategically stay in Sadar Street, New Market and Mirza Ghalib street of Central Kolkata. The areas were considered a perfect haven as it provided them connectivity to all parts of Kolkata and had a high concentration of ATMs. The area is extremely crowded as well, helping them avoid detection and also giving them a better availability of electronic hardware and tools.
The incident came to light when ATM users complained to the bank of their money being withdrawn unknowingly. The bankers told the unsuspecting customers that the money has been withdrawn using cards and expressed helplessness.
Complaints were also made to the police in this regard, but no progress was made. Police swung into action when on July 31, when 78 complaints were received on a single day. An SIT was formed to investigate the matter, which in turn arrested three Romanians on August 3. They started spilling the beans during questioning which it led to further arrests of the engineering students.