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Card racket dupes banks

Calcutta police have busted a racket that had stolen credit card details of customers of foreign banks and used the information in fraudulent transactions allegedly with the help of traders across the country.

The kingpin of the gang, Rakesh Sharma from Jaipur, was arrested from a star hotel in Calcutta on Wednesday. Three of his accomplices were picked up earlier.

“We recovered gadgets that the accused had used to make fake credit cards by putting in stolen information acquired from banned websites or through Internet chat sessions where secret banking data is available for a price,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, the joint commissioner of police (crime).

“There are more people involved in the fraud, including traders in Calcutta. Besides, we have informed our counterparts in Chennai and Delhi where some forged cards were swiped with the help of a some traders,” Ghosh added.

An officer said Sharma and his associates have duped several banks to the tune of more than Rs 1 crore over the past six months.

He said investigations started after a bank branch in south Calcutta reported in May to Shakespeare Sarani police station that it had lost Rs 37 lakh in such transactions.

“The bank had reported that though their electronic data capture (EDC) machine had been used by clients of some foreign banks, they refused to credit the amount into their accounts.”

A bank official explained that EDC (or swipe) machines are issued to retail merchants to enable them to accept credit cards against purchases. “The bank would contact the other bank whose credit card was used for the purchase and seek payment for the amount spent. The second bank would transfer the amount to the first and then send a credit card bill to its client,” he added.

Sharma and his associate Kuldip Singh, also from Jaipur, had allegedly tied up with Saumya Basu, a trader in Patuli, and made several fake transactions using his EDC machine that the complainant bank had issued.

“When the bank contacted a foreign bank asking for the money that its client had apparently spent in Calcutta, it was told that the customer had neither visited Bengal during that period nor made the purchases,” said an officer.

The police first rounded up Basu since the transactions were made from his shop. Basu allegedly confessed that he had allowed Sharma to use the EDC machine in his store and got a “commission” in return. Next in the net was Singh, who had had introduced Basu to Sharma.

Hiren Acharya, the fourth in the ring, was held in Asansol for allegedly working as a linkman between Sharma and a number of retail merchants.

The police set a trap for Sharma, sending him an invitation through his arrested friends to visit Calcutta for “meeting new dealers”.