ATM-skimming gang with Canadian connection nabbed in Madurai

The 'Q' branch police in Madurai have unearthed a fake debit card racket which may have international ramifications.

Five college-educated men were arrested in the city on Sunday for reportedly withdrawing vast amounts of money from ATMs in the city using fake cards they made in the name of non-resident Indians, and the hunt is on for more accomplices.

As many as 260 fake debit cards, a skimmer, stolen cash to the tune of Rs4 lakh, a laptop, a car and a motorcycle have been seized from the arrested persons.

Police said the five had used the latest technology to hack the ATM card numbers of NRIs, obtained their passwords, made fake cards and use them to withdraw money.

They said initial investigation revealed that the five had withdrawn money 963 times.

"We suspect more than 10 people might be involved in the racket. But the arrested people are not revealing the information," said a 'Q' branch officer.

Four of the key culprits have been identified as S Balaji, S Balamurugan, J Suresh and Madhan Meeran - all aged 28 years - residing in Yagappa Nagar and adjoining Tahsildar Nagar, were produced before a magistrate and remanded.

The four were arrested from various locations based on specific information about their illegal activities. They were involved in this racket for the past three to four years.

While debit card fraudsters have struck in Madurai in the past too, what has shocked the probing officials is the link to people in Canada. "We suspect that someone or perhaps a gang from Canada was giving instructions to the Madurai gang," the Q branch officer told The Times of India.

Balaji was a civil engineer and most educated of the lot. "He was the key person in the gang in Madurai and had cloned debit cards. His associates in Canada would send him account details of NRIs living in that country, along with crucial data like PIN of their debit cards. With the help of the details, Balaji would clone cards," said the officer.

The police said Balaji and his accomplices received only a percentage of the take - around 12 per cent for Balaji, and 10 per cent for the rest. The bulk of the money would be credited to certain people pointed out by his bosses Canada.

The gang was smart enough to avoid ATMs in the city itself, but would go to suburban or rural outlets.