Gang of hi-tech criminals cloning debit cards busted in Kochi

The gang had similarly siphoned off around Rs 10 lakh from people in the city and was involved in identical frauds in other states, said a police official.
Mohammed Nuhman, Joseph Sakharia and Shahjahan at Thoppumpady police station. (Photo | EPS)
Mohammed Nuhman, Joseph Sakharia and Shahjahan at Thoppumpady police station. (Photo | EPS)

KOCHI: A three-member interstate gang involved in cloning debit cards and withdrawing lakhs of rupees from ATMs in the city landed in police net on Sunday.

Kasaragod native Mohammed Nuhman aka Newman, 35, and his aides Shahjahan, 50, of Kochi and Joseph Sakharia aka Tijo, 26, of Kannur were arrested in a joint operation by the city shadow police and Thoppumpady police, following an inquiry into the case pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 1 lakh from a doctor’s bank account on December 2 last year.

The fraudsters had allegedly cloned the debit card of Dr Mohammed Shabeer and withdrawn the money from his account from South Indian Bank and IndusInd Bank ATMs between 6.50 am and 7.20 am.

The gang had similarly siphoned off around Rs 10 lakh from people in the city and was involved in identical frauds in other states, said a police official.

Modus operandi

The gang led by Newman made use of the ATM skimming method, in which a small device is fitted in a card swiping slot. When a card is swiped, the machine captures the information stored in the card’s magnetic strip.

“Newman had provided Tijo, who worked in a petrol bunk at Thoppumpady, with such a device and tasked him with swiping the debit cards of customers in the machine. Newman had imported the machine from abroad,” said Thoppumpady SHO N A Anoop.

Anoop said Tijo would also obtain the debit card PIN by noticing the customer’s finger movements while using the card and would pass on the information to Newman.

“Newman would copy data from the machine to his laptop and then to another device. Then, he would clone the data to an old ATM card. Using the PIN he received from Tijo, Newman would withdraw the money. He preferred early hours of the day to commit the crime and would wear a helmet,” Anoop said.

Shahjahan assisted Newman and provided him with his two-wheeler to commit the fraud.

“Newman and Shahjahan were also involved in similar frauds in Puducherry,” said a police official.

How they were nabbed

The gang used the clone of Dr Shabeer’s debit card and withdrew the money from an ATM at Mundempilly in four transactions and from another ATM in the city in six transactions within a few minutes.

However, Dr Shabeer received SMSes about the withdrawals and immediately alerted the police.

“The police tracked down the accused based on the clues received after examining the CCTV footage from the two locations,” said an officer. The accused were produced in court and remanded in judicial custody.

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