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Waiter at South Mumbai cafe uses customer's PIN to steal Rs 50,000

The new RBI guideline that makes it mandatory to type the PIN when you swipe your debit card, proved costly for Murtaza Vahanvaty, as a waiter at Cafe Moshe’s used the information to withdraw Rs 50,000, when the BBA student forgot his card at the Cuffe Parade eatery

Last month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made it mandatory for customers to punch in their personal identification numbers (PIN) each time their debit cards are swiped at shops and eateries. They explained that this would mitigate the chances of fraud. Ironically, following this very rule caused a young man to be robbed of Rs 50,000 from his bank account recently.

Cafe Moshe’s in Cuffe Parade where the incident took place. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Cafe Moshe’s in Cuffe Parade where the incident took place. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The Cuffe Parade police have arrested a waiter from the well-known Cafe Moshe’s, who allegedly withdrew Rs 50,000 from a customer, Murtaza Hussein Vahanvaty’s bank account. Vahanvaty had forgotten his debit card at the cash counter after paying the bill. He then left the cafe without realising he’d left the card behind. Sensing his opportunity, the waiter, who had seen the PIN, went to an ATM in Wood House, Cuffe Parade, and swiped the card thrice.

Waiter Suryakant Acharya rushed to the nearest ATM to withdraw the money
Waiter Suryakant Acharya rushed to the nearest ATM to withdraw the money after Murtaza left his card behind. Pics/Bipin Kokate and Satyajit Desai

The incident occurred on January 18 at the Cafe Moshe’s outlet situated in Cuffe Parade. Vahanvaty (22), a BBA student and resident of Byculla, had gone there with his friends Utsav Unadkat and Harsh Daga. After having a round of cake and coffee, Murtaza paid his bill worth Rs 761 with his debit card around 11.25 pm. As per the recent guidelines of the RBI, Murtaza entered his PIN. He left the cafe and dropped one his friends at Kemps Corner before heading home, unaware that he had left his card behind.

Murtaza left his card behind. Pics/Bipin Kokate and Satyajit Desai
Murtaza Hussein Vahanvaty

The rude shock came at 12.40 am, when he received three SMS alerts in a row, telling him that a total of Rs 50,000 had been debited from his account, in two withdrawals of Rs 20,000 and one of Rs 10,000 respectively. Shocked, Vahanvaty checked his pockets, to discover that his debit card was missing.

The victim Murtaza Hussein Vahanvaty was shocked when he received three SMS alerts on his phone past midnight, telling him that Rs 50,000 had been debited from his account. Pic/Satyajit Desai
The victim Murtaza Hussein Vahanvaty was shocked when he received three SMS alerts on his phone past midnight, telling him that Rs 50,000 had been debited from his account. Pic/Satyajit Desai

“I realised that I had forgotten my card in Cafe Moshe’s. I rushed back there with my friends,” said Murtaza. Murtaza then spoke to the cafe manager Anand Singh. He also approached Cuffe Parade police station, and an investigation started.

The cops immediately suspected the involvement of waiter Suryakant Sadashiv Acharya (28). Acharya told them that he had left the cafe for a while to meet his girlfriend, but soon changed his version to admit that he had withdrawn the money. The cops then recovered it from his house.

Acharya had loaned Rs 2,000 from the stash to his friend. The police also managed to recover this amount. They arrested Acharya under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) 379 (theft) of the IPC and Section 66C (identity theft) of the Information and Technology Act.

“The court has remanded Acharya in police custody till Friday,” said Sanjay Chavan, investigating officer. “I am very thankful to the Cuffe Parade police, who cracked the case immediately. During investigations, the police were very cooperative,” said Murtaza.

Cafe says
Anand Singh, the manager at the cafe , said, “I am not the right person to talk to the media on this issue. Talk to Y K Benjamin, the area manager.” Benjamin also repeated that he, too, was not authorised to speak to the media. Benjamin said that COO Ajay Khanna was the spokesperson for the company, but added that he was in Delhi and would not be available for comment. MiD DAY then contacted Moshe Shek, owner of the Moshe’s chain of cafes. He did not receive his call, but texted back, saying, “I am travelling, please talk to our city COO Ajay Khanna.”

The rule
The rule came into effect late last year, which said that customers have to enter the PIN each time their cards are swiped at a merchant outlet. The move was introduced to reduce the incidence of frauds in payment systems. Most of the cards issued by banks in India have magnetic stripes and the data stored on such cards is vulnerable to skimming and cloning. Hence, it was decided that all debit card transactions would have to be authenticated by PIN, as an additional level of security.

RBI says
Ironically, the RBI had made the punching in of PINs mandatory in debit card transactions to avoid fraud. RBI spokesperson Alpana Killawala, however, said, “This is a matter of theft. This is a matter of carelessness. Customers should take care of their belongings. RBI is not responsible for this. There are clear guidelines of the RBI that say how ATM PINs should be entered. Enter the PIN while hiding it from everybody.”

Accused
Victim

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2 Comments

  • Ritesh Singh24-Jan-2014

    Why don't they use bio-metrics ?? why do they ask the customer to type the pin all by himself ...this practice has too many loop holes...the suspect can even use key mask to retrieve the pin typed by the customer.. and even the magnetic tape data.. which has just the card number, owner's name and the bank's merchant code..4 of the fingers (2 each hand) should be scanned at the time of issuing the credit card and stored. While using it, instead of key typing any of the 1 finger should be scanned.

  • Khalil27-Jan-2014

    well, all the retail shops doesn't provide any facility where we can enter the pin while hiding it from everybody. please issue guideline to retail shops to provide a facility by which we can enter atm pin and no one can see it.

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