The Central Crime Branch (CCB) police are spending many a sleepless night on the trail of a Nigerian couple who they claim are responsible for hacking into a dozen ATMs in the city. Every time the police think they are close to making an arrest, the couple give them the slip. This has been going on since January, an officer said.
The prime accused, Eremhen Smart, was arrested by CCB officials in January but he got out on bail a few days later. According to the police, he has been on the run since along with his fiancée, Maryam.
Smart had been arrested for hacking into ATMs by using cameras and card readers. “They are not working alone and are part of a gang which also operates in Maharashtra,” a police officer said.
The modus operandi of the gang is to fix a debit card-reading device and PIN cameras on the machines in such a way that they have access to the person’s bank details. The cameras, affixed in the ATM machine, record the four-digit PIN, which the gang would then use to clone cards.
In June, CCB officials got a tip-off that Smart and his fiancée were in Kammanahalli. They surrounded the area, but Smart and Maryam managed to escape by jumping over 8-foot-high walls and reach their car. “They managed to escape even after their car rammed into a road divider on Banaswadi flyover. We seized the vehicle and detained a few people who had given them shelter,” the officer said.
The scam came to light in January after a complaint filed by a private bank account holder, Payal Mondal, who alleged that ₹94,318 had been withdrawn from her account online. Within one week, 11 cases of fraudulent transaction on debit cards of different banks were reported in Banaswadi police station limits. The police realised that the cases were connected and traced the origin of the data leak to an ATM in Kammanahalli.
According to the police, the gang is responsible for hacking into many ATMs in the East division. “We need to question Smart to get more details,” the officer added.
When contacted, Jinendra Khanagavi , Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime), who is heading the investigation, said: “We have obtained some leads and are closing in on them.”