Back in 2014, Mohammed Yousuf Hussain went to a Telangana ATM and was asked for help by an illiterate person. Where someone else might have simply offered help and moved on, Mohammed hit upon an idea for an easy con job.
"The man said that he needed help withdrawing the cash, and told Hussain his pin number. That's when he realised that it was so easy, and the idea came to him," said P David Raj, an Inspector from the Central Crime Station (CCS) in Warangal.
The idea: pretend to be a good samaritan, steal ATM cards and empty the bank accounts of gullible victims.
When police arrested 38-year-old Hussain on Saturday, they seized Rs 4.2 lakh in cash and 27 ATM cards from him.
In all, the resident of Shaikpet in Hyderabad had committed close to 35 offences in various places across the state.
"He mainly targeted illiterate and old people by casually offering to help them withdraw cash. When they told him their pin number, he would swap their ATM card for a fake one, escape, and withdraw the money from somewhere else," Inspector David Raj says.
Hussain targeted only these two groups as it would take them time to realise that the numbers on the cards were different, by which time he would be long gone.
Police also said that he ensured that he carried out the thefts only on Fridays or Saturdays, as the bank would be closed the next day. This gave him ample time to use the card before his victims could check with the bank.
He also never stayed in one place for too long, and kept shifting the location of his crimes.
According to reports, he was involved in eight thefts in and around Warangal, seven in Kamareddy, six in Nalgonda, four in Medak, three in Zaheerabad, two in Bhongir, Suryapet and Siddipet, and one in Nizamabad.
With the wealth that he amassed this way, police said that he bought an apartment in Hyderabad and even invested in gold.
But where did he get the duplicate cards from? Police said that Mohammed would hold on to the cards of his victims even after they had blocked it.
"Irrespective of whether the owner of the card blocked it before or after he withdrew the money, he held on to the cards. He used these defunct cards to swap them with functioning cards of his victims. This way he had collected almost 30 cards when we caught him," the Inspector added.
Warangal Police Commissioner G Sudheer Babu told the media that police caught him red-handed on Saturday, after laying a trap for him at an ATM centre in the city.
Hussain has been sent to judicial custody and police said that further investigations are on.