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Card con uses mobile money to dupe many

Calcutta police have busted a Jharkhand-based racket that is believed to have defrauded several people in the city by posing as customer care executives of the victims’ banks to collect details of their debit cards over the phone.

They transferred the money from the accounts of the victims using mobile money transfer, which several banks are offering by tying up with mobile service providers.

The police were acting on a complaint lodged by Debasish Thakur on July 1.

Thakur, a Beleghata resident, had received a text message from an unknown number informing him that his debit card has been blocked. Five minutes later, he received a call from a man who claimed to be from his bank’s customer care wing offering help to re-activate his card if he provided the details of his debit card. Thakur shared his debit card details with the caller.

Twenty minutes later, Thakur received a text message from his bank stating that Rs 22,000 had been debited from his account.

“A person named Arun Mandal, 21, was arrested in Jharkhand on Tuesday. His involvement is clear as the money debited from the account of the complainant was deposited in his bank account in Jharkhand,” the joint commissioner (crime) of police, Pallab Kanti Ghosh, said on Wednesday. His accomplices are on the run.

Officers from the police’s anti-bank fraud section said Mandal and his accomplices transferred the stolen money from one mobile phone “wallet” to another before depositing it in their bank accounts.

The money was transferred from one wallet to another to cover the trail. “The mobile phones used in the operation had prepaid SIM obtained by providing fake details. So we could not trace the mobile phones back to the user,” said an investigator.

The police had received similar complaints, with the money trail leading to accounts in two nationalised banks in Jharkhand. “More than Rs 3.5 lakh had been deposited in the accounts of the fraudsters over the past fortnight. The victims are spread across India. The racket stole around Rs 20,000 or less in the hope that no complaints would be lodged since the amount was moderate,” an officer said.

Banks have tied up with telecom operators to offer mobile money transfer, which allows a person to send money from his bank account to a mobile phone user even if the latter doesn’t have a bank account.

“A virtual wallet is assigned to a mobile number where money can be transferred. The money in the wallet can be sent to a bank account or used to pay utility bills or recharge the mobile,” a bank official said.

He said if anyone receives a call or text saying his/her card has been blocked, do visit an ATM counter and check, verify the number of the caller and report the number to the police. “Don’t give card details to anyone,” he added.