It was the persistence of a Chembur-based schoolteacher who had lost her entire salary to a skimming fraud that made the V B Nagar police in Kurla (West) take up the probe. They eventually busted an international skimming racket earlier this week, with the arrest of three accused wanted by several police forces abroad.
Candice Fernandes, a teacher at a Chembur-based school, lost Rs 36,500 to a series of unauthorised transactions made from an ATM in Kurla on September 15. She later found out that the Bandra ATM that she had withdrawn cash from earlier had been compromised and that there were 62 more people who had gone to that particular ATM and lost money.
An officer from the VB Nagar police station said when the woman initially approached them, they had told her to go to the Bandra police that were probing the caase. Fernandes, however, insisted that since the ATM that was used for the unauthorised transactions was near Kurla railway station — the area comes under the jurisdiction of the VB Nagar police station — the VB Nagar police ought to probe the matter. Senior inspector at VB Nagar police station P More said, “She met me and said her entire salary had been wiped out. Hence, rather than making her run to the Bandra police station, where most complainants were being sent, we decided to probe the matter ourselves.” He then made a team comprising inspector Tanveer Shaikh, sub-inspector Ganesh Mohite and three others to probe the case.
While the Bandra police station, where the other 62 victims had filed a complaint, could not make much headway, the VB Nagar police station with one complainant managed to locate the accused based on CCTV footage and arrested Allen Budoi (39), Marion Grama (42), and Miu Ionel (42). The police in UK, Chile and some European nations had been looking for the trio for similar cases. The police found the accused had came to the ATM for six days to install a skimming device and a hidden camera.
While a skimming device copies details of a debit card being swiped at an ATM, the hidden camera is placed above the keypad to record the PIN when the user enters it. The accused later transferred these details to dummy cards that were used to make the unauthorised transactions.
The police faced some problems while interrogating the trio due to language problems and have hence written to the Mumbai University asking for a Romanian translator. The police have so far known that the three had tried to fit the skimming device at an ATM in Malad too but did not succeed. “They claim to have made 4-5 attempts at other ATMs but none of them worked out,” said an officer. The police are however taking this with a pinch of salt as they suspect the trio could be involved in other cases.
So far, nearly 10 police stations that have registered similar complaints have approached the VB Nagar police to check if the three were involved in those cases too. The VB Nagar police have the custody of the accused until October 13.