How credit card fraudsters are fooling even the educated

Jul 25, 2014, 06:36 IST | Saurabh Vaktania & Sagar Rajput

As fooling people to part with banking information and passwords is getting harder, fraudsters are now getting details of each victim and talking in fluent English to pass off as bank officials

If all the warnings against sharing your banking data with conmen masquerading as bank officials were not enough, here’s a big wake up call.

Suave conmen call up their victim, armed with details and ready to fish for new ones
Suave conmen call up their victim, armed with details and ready to fish for new ones

Police stations across the city have been flooded with complaints of credit card and bank account fraud, and in nearly every case the victim has been fooled into parting with confidential information, including one-time passwords.

They initiate the fraudulent transaction and the customer gets a one-time password (OTP), which he is made to part with
They initiate the fraudulent transaction and the customer gets a one-time password (OTP), which he is made to part with

From the cases, it is clear that even as banks are taking steps to increase security and customers are becoming more aware of the ways in which frauds are conducted, the conmen too are stepping up their game.

The victim realises he has been deceived when he calls up his bank and is told that no such call was made from their end. Illustration: Amit Bandre
The victim realises he has been deceived when he calls up his bank and is told that no such call was made from their end. Illustration: Amit Bandre

While baiting customers with gifts has always been a part of the modus operandi, fraudsters are now doing their homework on each customer and sounding more suave during phone calls to make customers believe that they are talking to an actual bank official.

Since SIM cards from Delhi were used to make the calls, police officials suspect that a Delhi-based gang is behind the recent spate of cases but admit that a gang from Mumbai could also be using Delhi numbers.

They are also perplexed by only Rs 7,500-Rs 8,000 being withdrawn by the gang from each of their victims’ accounts and are probing how the gang manages to get access to the victims’ personal details. Police officials suspect that the conmen may have even set up the companies into which the money from their victims is routed.

'Very convincing'
Akshata Udiaver, who runs the website, ‘All about animation’, is one of the victims of this gang. Speaking to mid-day, she said, “On July 19, I got a call from a person who claimed to be calling from a reputable bank whose credit card I use.

The person on the phone, who was calling from a cellphone number, said that I needed to upgrade my credit card to get better security and a higher credit limit.”

Udiaver said the conman had all her personal details. “I would start speaking and the person would complete my sentence. He had all my personal information including my full name, date of birth and complete address.

He even knew I have two credit cards, one of which is a platinum one, and the credit limit of each card. He was very fluent, which ensured that I did not doubt him,” she said.

In the course of the call, Udiaver received a text message with a one-time password (OTP). “I did not even realise that I was giving away the password and after the call was done, Rs 7,750 had been withdrawn from my account.

When I called the bank the next day, they said no such calls had been made by them and that I must have fallen prey to fraudsters. I was shocked and the incident left me wondering how many other people must have been cheated like this.”

Santacruz resident Rajesh Patel was cheated in a similar manner. He said, “Last week I received a call from a person claiming to be from a multi-national bank. He had all my personal information and told me that my card was going to expire in a week and that I would get attractive gifts, like mobile phones, shoes, sunglasses etc, if I renewed it.

He said it was a limited-period offer and I had to take a quick decision. In the course of the call I got an OTP on my phone, which I was asked to confirm to the ‘bank official’. As soon as the call was done, Rs 7,990 had been withdrawn from my account. When I called the bank they said no such calls were made by them.”

Covering all bases
In certain cases, the transactions being made by the fraudsters would raise a red flag in the bank’s system, prompting customer care executives to call the account holder to confirm whether he/she had initiated the transaction.

It turns out that the conmen manage to anticipate this as well and advise their victims to say yes when such a call comes. One such victim, who did not wish to be named, said, “I received a call from a cellphone number. The caller said his name was Pawan Malhotra and he was calling from a certain bank’s credit card department in New Delhi.

He said that since I was a loyal customer and had been using the bank’s credit card for around 10 years, I was being given free gifts such as a cellphone, shoes, wristwatch, sunglasses, two holiday packages and a discount card.”

“He told me that to get these gifts, Rs 7,998 would be debited from my credit card temporarily and I would get the money back within 15 days. When I said that I needed some time to think about it, he said I had to make a decision on the spot.

He then asked me to ‘confirm’ my card details, like its number, valid-from and valid-through dates, and CVV number and said he was initiating the process. He also said that I would get a call from another department of the bank asking me if I had initiated a transaction and that I should say yes.”

“Another call came, this time from the bank itself, and I said that I had initiated the transaction, after which I got my OTP. The fraudster called back and asked me for the OTP, and Rs 7,998 was deducted from my account. It was only when I called the bank later that I realised that I had been cheated.”

Different styles
In two cases registered with the Mulund police, the fraudsters opted for a different modus operandi. And this time these conmen did not stop at R8,000 and withdrew as much as Rs 25,000 in one case and did 10 transactions in another.

According to officials from the Mulund police, in one case a fraudster paid three phone bills, bought two expensive watches and five other valuable articles in the wee hours of July 18. Speaking to mid-day, the complainant, Suresh Jain, who is a businessman, said, “Ten transactions were done between 11.58pm and 8.01am.

When I woke up at 7 am, I did not check my phone and it was only when the bank officials called me to verify the transactions did I realise that they had been made. I then checked with my son and once I got confirmation that even he had not bought any of these products, I blocked my card immediately and asked every company to block the delivery of the products ordered.”

Housewife Trupti Surve from Mulund got a call on July 18, wherein an unidentified man got her details on the pretext of being a bank officials. Assistant Police Inspector Mohan Sarvodaye from Mulund police station said, “An unknown man called Surve asking for details and she spelled out everything.

Later, she realised that Rs 26,531 had been debited from her account. The accused bought recharges for several cellphone numbers and other goods and billed all of it to Surve.” “The cases have been registered with the police station and we are hunting for the accused.

We have written to the bank, asking for information that can help us solve the cases,” said another police officer. The cops have registered cases against unknown accused under IPC Section 420 along with relevant sections of the IT Act.

It's a trap!
Kumar Aiyer, Vice President, All India Credit Card Users Welfare Association, said, “Customers should never fall into such traps and they should be aware that banks never ask for any personal details on the phone. The credit card payment transactions/ default payments are between the customer and the bank and not any individual.”

Cop speak
ACP Nandkishor More from the cyber crime cell of Mumbai police said, “One should never ever give away personal information or passwords to anyone. Bank officials will never call you on the phone and take details from you.

If you get such calls, visit your nearest bank and verify the facts and don’t give away information just because something good is being offered. If you are in doubt, call the bank’s customer care numbers right away.”

“People should be more aware. Even educated people are falling prey to such fraudsters. Remember that anything is possible in the world of cyber crime,” he added.

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