The cyber crime unit of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Karnataka police have arrested two foreigners – a Hungarian and a Romanian national – for rigging several bank ATMs in the city and capturing the ATM card data and pin numbers of unsuspecting ATM users. The two arrested men have been identified as Dan Sabin Christian, 40, from Romania and Mare Janos, 44, from Hungary who arrived in India for the first time on a tourist visa on September 1 and were due to leave on September 19.
The modus operandi employed by the two East Europeans to steal the card data of ATM users in Bengaluru bears a striking resemblance to the tactics employed by a Romanian gang involved last year in the stealing of data at ATMs in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. In the Kerala case one of the suspects Gabriel Marian, 27, was arrested in Mumbai days after a few victims in Kerala complained of illegal debits of funds from their accounts. The investigations in the case had shown that the Romanians had planted card skimmers and pin cameras at ATMs to capture the data of users in order to clone the cards.
The cyber crime unit of the CID in Karnataka in the investigations of their case have found that the two persons arrested in Bengaluru this week planted skimmers on eight occasions in five ATMs in the central business district and at an ATM at the international airport. The operations of the duo were unearthed by the police 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 in the CBD.
Based on this information and the CCTV footage of the persons who installed the skimmer and mini camera the cyber crime police carried out investigations and 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.
Following the arrest the two foreign nationals have claimed that they are part of an organized criminal gang working with an operator based in the UK. “The duo 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 in order to later monetize it,” the director general of the CID H C Kishore Chandra said. The duo were earlier caught in Jamaica for a similar offence, the official said. “No money has been stolen with the data theft in Bengaluru but we are asking the banks to alert customers who have used the ATMs where the skimmers were installed to change their pin and other details, ” the additional director general of police at the CID Prathap Reddy said. 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 in an encrypted form to the associate in the UK who would use the data to grab funds from the accounts of victims for purchases and cash.
The CID would initiate proceedings against the main operators of the card skimming gang through the Interpol, ADGP Prathap Reddy said.
The ATMs compromised in the card data theft by the two foreign nationals over the last two weeks are – 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 M G Road, and a Kotak bank ATM at Brigade Road. According to the CID the duo have been travelling around the world and have visited the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica, Philippines, France, Argentina and
Uruguay in recent times. The police said they are verifying linkages to the gang involved in the ATM skimming in Kerala last year. Cristian and Janos were scheduled to fly to the UK on September 19.
A Citi Bank spokesperson 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.”