The security of several ATMs in Bengaluru have allegedly been compromised by two Eastern European nationals.
On Friday, the cyber crime unit of the Karnataka Crime Investigations Department (CID) arrested two foreign nationals – a Hungarian and a Romanian – for allegedly rigging several bank ATMs in the city and capturing the ATM card data and pin numbers of thousands of ATM users.
The arrested duo have been identified as 40-year-old Dan Sabin Christian from Romania and 44-year-old Janos from Hungary.
The duo arrived in India on a tourist visa on September 1 and were scheduled to leave on September 19.
According to the police, the modus operandi of the accused, stealing the card data of ATM users in Bengaluru, bears a resemblance to the tactics employed by a Romanian gang involved in stealing from Thiruvananthapuram ATMs last year.
In the Kerala case, one of the suspects, 27-year-old Gabriel Marian was arrested in Mumbai a few days after a few victims in Kerala complained of illegal withdrawal of funds from their accounts.
The investigations in the Kerala case had revealed that the Romanians had planted card skimmers and pin cameras at ATMs to capture the data of users and clone their cards.
The cyber crime unit of the CID has found that the arrested persons had planted skimmers on eight occasions at four ATMs in Bengaluru's central business district and one ATM at the Kempegowda International Airport.
Police unearthed the illegal activity after officials of the Kotak Mahindra Bank reported that illegal devices for skimming ATM cards and capturing pin numbers had been found at the bank’s ATM kiosk on MG Road.
The CID sleuths then began combing through CCTV footage of the persons who installed the skimmer and mini camera. They found that similar equipment was also installed at a Kotak Mahindra ATM at the international airport.
The police laid a trap for the suspects and waited for them to arrive to retrieve the devices. The foreign nationals have claimed that they are part of an organized criminal gang working with an operator based in the UK.
Police said that the data theft in Bengaluru has happened for a period of two weeks at the Kotak Mahindra ATMs at the Bengaluru International Airport and the Trinity Metro Station, a Citibank ATM at the Garuda Mall, a Canara Bank ATM at MG Road, and a Kotak bank ATM at Brigade Road.
Meanwhle, Citibank issued a statement which said, "Security of our customer information is of paramount importance to Citi. To the best of our understanding, there has been no compromise of any customer data due to this fraudulent activity as on date, and we shall continue to take all possible steps to safeguard our customers' interests. We are closely monitoring the situation and co-operating with the law enforcement agency on this incident."
“The accused brought sophisticated equipment with them and planted it in the ATMs as part of an operation to gather data of as many ATM users as possible,” the Director General of the CID HC Kishore Chandra said.
Further investigation revealed that the duo was earlier caught in Jamaica for a similar offence.
However, no money was stolen with the data theft in Bengaluru but the police have asked banks to alert customers to change their pin and other details.
"The duo planted the skimmers in the early hours of the morning and would retrieve them late at night to change the memory cards which stored the stolen data. The stolen data would be transmitted to the associate in the UK in an encrypted form, who would then use the data to steal funds from the accounts of victims," the DGP said.
The CID is now planning to initiate proceedings against prime operators of the card skimming gang through the Interpol.
Investigation has revealed that the duo has been travelling around the world and has visited the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica, Philippines, France, Argentina and Uruguay.