Bengaluru: Don't be fooled, crafty criminals are exploiting your trust at ATMs

According to the complaints, the miscreants withdrew money using different debit cards
Last Updated : 03 June 2023, 19:02 IST

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Miscreants have shifted their strategies when it comes to stealing money from ATMs, moving away from traditional methods such as breaking machines or engaging in skimming, shimming, or cloning. While these older techniques are still prevalent, criminals have now adopted new tactics that pose an additional threat to both banks and customers. According to city police records, an average of 200 ATM-related offenses occur annually, reflecting the growing prevalence of these crimes.

Criminals deceive unsuspecting ATM users by substituting their genuine debit cards with counterfeit ones, cunningly posing as helpful individuals offering assistance with cash withdrawals.

These adept fraudsters leverage the very process of cash withdrawal to their advantage. Once a transaction is initiated, they skillfully disrupt the power supply to the ATM machine, prompting the machine to dispense the cash from the cassette. Exploiting this momentary vulnerability, they swiftly extract the money from the dispensers before it is retracted, leaving their unsuspecting victims unaware of the theft.

One such incident occurred on May 2 when Meena Jaiswal, a 45-year-old woman, lost a significant sum of Rs 2,06,855 lakh to fraudsters who offered to help her withdraw money from a Karnataka Bank ATM. Tragically, Meena needed the funds for her husband's cancer treatment at Kidwai hospital. Unfamiliar with ATM operations, she found herself at a loss in the kiosk. A man came forward, appearing to assist her.

Unfortunately, he managed to obtain her PIN number and carried out the ruse of attempting to withdraw money. Feigning machine malfunction, he returned Meena's card but surreptitiously handed her a fake one. Subsequently, he proceeded to withdraw a staggering Rs 2,06,855 from various ATMs on different dates. Meena only discovered the fraud when she tried to make a purchase on May 5 and realized her card was compromised. Due to her husband's critical condition, she reported the incident to the bank only on May 31, after gathering account statement and necessary documentation from the bank.

Recently, RBL Bank made a startling discovery when it came to light that unknown individuals had illicitly withdrawn money from their ATMs situated in various kiosks during October last year. Promptly responding to these incidents, the bank took appropriate action by filing at least four complaints in April of this year. The complaints were registered with the authorities in Ashok Nagar, High Grounds, Banasawadi, Subramanyanagar, and Yelahanka New Town.

According to the complaints, the miscreants withdrew money using different debit cards. They turned off the power supply and pulled the money while the machine was retracting the unattended cash during the dispensing process. The machine sensors failed to detect the withdrawals. Although the software showed that the amount was deposited back into the ATMs, the cash was missing from the cash tray. These fraudulent transactions occurred during the daytime.

Sandeep Patil, additional commissioner of police (West), told DH, "We have already instructed banks to provide security guards for all ATMs. It is the responsibility of the respective banks to ensure that no opportunities are given to illegal activities."

DCPs in the city will hold another meeting with banks in their divisions to discuss strengthening security measures to prevent such incidents, Patil added. He advised people to be cautious about whom they seek help from when withdrawing money.

The ACP, speaking on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that banks often avoid hiring security guards due to financial constraints. Although beat police officers make regular visits to ATM kiosks twice a day, primarily during nighttime, their presence cannot be maintained round the clock.

PIN protection

Avoid writing down your PIN number on the card.
Refrain from entering the ATM kiosk if you notice any suspicious individuals lingering in or around the area.
Never seek assistance from unknown individuals to withdraw money or disclose your PIN to them.
Be vigilant and check for any skimming devices attached to the card reader of the ATM.
Keep your hand on the keyboard while entering your PIN number to prevent anyone from seeing it.
Opt for ATMs that have security guards present and seek their help if needed.

Outdated Techniques Remain in Practice

Skimming: Skimming is a fraudulent technique employed by criminals who install skimmers in ATMs and Point of Sale (POS) machines. These skimmers are designed to capture the data of debit and credit card users, which is then transferred to counterfeit cards for unauthorised withdrawals from the victims' accounts. These devices are relatively easy to detect in machines where cards are swiped, as they are typically placed on the card reader. In addition, miscreants often employ cameras to capture the PIN numbers entered by unsuspecting individuals.

Shimming: Another method still employed by fraudsters is shimming, which involves the installation of small devices equipped with chips in the card reader. These devices are designed to collect data from the inserted cards, which is then transferred to counterfeit cards for unauthorised transactions and cash withdrawals.

Recent incidents

In October 2022, a series of incidents unfolded involving ATM fraud:
A miscreant visited the ATM kiosk of RBL Bank on Millers Road and fraudulently withdrew Rs 18,000 in two transactions.
An individual visited the ATM kiosk of RBL Bank in HBR Layout and withdrew Rs 10,000.
A miscreant targeted the ATM kiosk of RBL Bank in Yelahanka New Town, withdrawing Rs 20,000 in two transactions.
At the first block of Rajajinagar, an offender made multiple transactions and fraudulently withdrew Rs 45,000 from the ATM kiosk of RBL Bank.
Unknown miscreants visited the ATM kiosk of RBL Bank on Residency Road and withdrew around Rs 4.07 lakh from multiple machines.
Two individuals visited the Federal Bank ATM kiosk in Chikkajala and withdrew Rs 2.95 lakh in multiple transactions using debit cards. They disabled the power supply when the machine dispensed the cash.

Published 03 June 2023, 16:30 IST

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