Beware! ATM thieves can steal your life savings in just 2 minutes
Data thieves are increasingly treating ATMs as a gold mine where they can wipe out the money in your account at one fell swipe, after stealing your details.
Lalbaug, the accused is seen covering his face with a mask
After around 12 people lost money from their accounts at the Union Bank of India (UBI) ATM at Lalbaug in Parel last month, 17 more cases were reported, and cops are yet to nab the tech-savvy thieves.
This paper had reported on April 9 ('Rs 4.5 lakh stolen from 12 people who used Parel ATM') about the first set of strikes, where people who had used the UBI ATM had money stolen from their accounts.
In the CCTV footage retrieved from Agripada
Grabs retrieved from the CCTV footage of ATMs at Lalbaug, Agripada and Kalyan show that the thieves installed cameras to read users’ PIN codes, and skimmers to read their card details in just two minutes.
CCTV grabs from the Union bank of India ATM in Lalbaug
A few hours later, the crooks would retrieve the devices and use the data to withdraw cash from the ATM users’ accounts. Between March 27 and April 5, a gang of thieves visited six ATMs belonging to UBI.
Agripada, respectively, where the accused, with their faces covered, are seen installing skimmers and cameras
Preliminary investigations revealed that the accused had tampered the UBI ATMs in Agripada and Lalbaug, and at Ghodbunder Road and Kapurbawdi in Thane.
Footage from an ATM in Kalyan, where the accused withdrew cash
After the 18 visits that they made to these booths, the thieves could pilfer lakhs of rupees, mostly from salary accounts. Divulging details of the series of cases, senior inspector Bhausaheb Gite of Kalachowkie police station said, “In all, 12 people have approached us who have lost around Rs 4.5 lakh in cash till date.
Union Bank of India ATM at Ghodbunder Road. Pic/Sameer Markande
CCTV footage of the UBI ATM at Lalbaug has been retrieved, and one of the accused is seen installing skimmers and cameras. A second group is seen in the footage from a Kalyan ATM, where another accused is withdrawing the money, while his aide waits outside.”
Many of the ATMs we surveyed across the city were unguarded, in breach of RBI norms. Pics/Ronak Savla
In the second incident involving the same group, the thieves walked away with cash from accounts of 17 people. “In Agripada, around R2 lakh was stolen from 17 people, and investigations are on,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Vinayak Deshmukh of Zone III.
In the CCTV footage retrieved from Agripada and Lalbaug, the accused is seen covering his face with a mask, while at Kalyan, the accused have tried to hide their faces with caps.
Cops said that the accused had cloned debit cards from the ATMs at these locations, and withdrew the cash from ATM kiosks of other banks in Kalyan.
The hackers in the gang use card skimmers to clone ATM cards. These are magnetic strips, which are fixed inside the slot for inserting the card in the machine, and can record account numbers of the cards. The accused also fix cameras in the booths to read PIN numbers of the cards.
The cameras are positioned in such a way that they face the number pads of the machines, so that when the customer types his password, the camera has a recording of it. They would visit the ATMs to install the cameras and skimmers, and collect them later at night.
A Crime Branch officer said, “There is a chain of groups that is active to carry out such crimes. One group collects the data through skimmers and cameras, the second does the cloning, and the third group withdraws the cash.” The police believe that the group had done a proper study of all the ATMs and targeted only those that were lacking security measures.
An official from Union Bank of India, unwilling to come on record, said, “We are working towards security measures. The ATMs in the remotest areas have been given security.” UBI has 387 ATMs in the city, of which many have no round-the-clock security. The bank has been depending on CCTV cameras, and the local police who visit the ATMs while on patrol duty.
No security guards at affected ATMs
According to bank officials, the cost of appointing security guards at an ATM booth comes up to around Rs 51,000, but customers are not charged any service fee until they use the ATM for more than five transactions a day. This, banks say, makes it unviable for them to have security guards man every booth.
"Most ATM users are salaried people who hardly use the ATM more than five times a day. In such a scenario it becomes difficult to maintain security at such low budgets," said an official from a nationalised bank on the condition of anonymity. Banks that cannot afford security guards usually depend on internal surveillance and the police.
The central bank’s norms state that caretakers (security personnel) should be appointed at offsite ATMs and sensitive locations to discourage attempts at tampering with the machine. Some recent guidelines also state that police personnel should pay at least two visits to all ATMs daily to ensure that everything is all right.