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Any Time Misery

Editorial |

The loot of at least Rs 20 lakh from the ATMs of several banks, both nationalised and private, has bamboozled both the bank authorities and the Lalbazar headquarters of Kolkata police.

Indeed, the deftly calibrated loot has left the police brass shaking their heads in disbelief; a hi-tech bank theft of this magnitude has never happened before.

So deft actually that even 48 hours after the can of worms was ripped off with no fewer than 76 FIRs filed in different police stations, the police are still far from tracking down the culprits.

It is now pretty obvious that the geographical spread of the crime was fairly wide, covering such areas as Gariahat, Golpark, Rabindra Sarobar, Park Street, Kasba, Tiljala and Beniapukur.

The gang’s network appears widespread, extending even to Dehi, where a section of the fraudsters are alleged to be operating. Some account-holders have received text-messages to the effect that money ~ Rs 20,000 in one case ~ had been deducted from their accounts in Delhi’s Kalkaji. While the attacks seem widespread, neither the banks nor the police seem to have a clue of how to proceed.

Even the modus operandi has become a subject of conjecture. Those who hacked the ATMs, the victims have been given to understand, might have used what they call a “skimming device”.

The failure of the cybercrime section is palpable, which explains why a Special Investigation Team has promptly been formed. As much as the police, the bank authorities can scarcely evade responsibility for what has turned out to be a direly shoddy security network in a 24 X 7 automatic teller machine (ATM), with little or nothing in terms of foolproof measures, let alone instant crime detection despite the CCTV… if it works, which is not always.

As often as not, a lone guard holds the fort at the bank’s e-corner. It is cause for alarm that the e-corner of a bank in Gariahat, whose ATM was “compromised”, makes do without a security guard.

Despite the occasional boast of “embedded security features and indestructible vaults”, there is no substitute for additional security personnel as the police have emphasised.

This will call for action by the banks, in coordination with RBI and the police. The fact that the culprits could have a free run of the ATMs is self-explanatory.

After all, scams using a skimming device need a card reader and a spy camera to be mounted at the ATM site to copy a customer’s card details and PIN. This cannot happen without a degree of connivance.

Hence the Reserve Bank’s instruction to banks to instal anti-skimmimg devices which can clone one’s ATM card.

What matters most to account-holders at this juncture is that the stolen cash should be returned to the depositors, as assured by the respective banks. And this should be done with urgent despatch.