Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Credit card crooks getting more tech savvy, using wire-tapping gadgets

Before skimmers were used now police officers are of view that the credit card racketeers are using hi-tech operations. This suspicion was strengthened when recently a private bank held a workshop for CID to discuss fraud techniques.

Credit card criminals in Kolkata may be getting more tech savvy, using wire-tapping gadgets to cash in on unsuspecting card users. This has become a new reason of worry for city police and CID. Wire-tapping is a complicated scheme and much more difficult to track down. It's a technical network that involves telephone wires, receiving-terminals and a cable line parallel with telephone cables to copy the card details when it is swiped for a transaction.

When the three Bangladeshis were arrested for using a card whose owner was in Singapore at that time the city police got a clue about fake credit card rackets in kolkata. Another fake card was seized in Burrabazar which was in use in New Zealand. Police is still looking for the clue that how this card was copied.

They are of a view that wire-tapping might be the method. Though they have not identified a racket as yet, cyber detectives are sure the card racketeers are running a hi-tech operation in the city.

"We haven't got any case where wire-tapping was used to dupe somebody but we are sure the racketeers are out there. We are trying to find the right technique to detect such crimes and also adopting safe-guard measures," said a senior CID officer.

Wiretapping works in three phases. In the first phase tapping is done into the wires of the main server to capture card data as it is processed for a legitimate transaction. In the next step the encoded data is transferred to another server, at the fraudster's end, where it is decoded. In the last phase, the data is used to produce counterfeit cards. The technology is definitely more complicated than a skimmer - a gadget which copies the details of a card from a measured distance. In advanced countries, encrypted cables are installed to prevent telephone wire tapping but awareness is low in India.

"The cable linking the electronic data capturing machine (EDC) and the distribution point box is a very sensitive area which is targeted by the racketeers. When the card is swiped on the EDC, the machine records the financial data in the card's magnetic strip and feeds it to the DP box, from where it moves to the main server of the telephone service provider and is finally transferred to the servers of banks where the transaction is recorded. The hackers target the area between the EDC and the DP box, tap into the wires, steal data and send it to another server," said an anti-fraud officer of a private bank.

It is difficult to trace such rackets the police officer said. "For the first phase, the fraudsters need only a map of the telephone wiring, a receiving terminal and cables matching the ones used by the telephone service provider. These are not very difficult to manage and anybody who has a flair for technology can use it to store the data. High-end technology comes in the next level," said an officer.

Police is suspecting that the card fraudsters in Kolkata might be using the technology to copy the data and send it to other cities in India and abroad. They have a enough clues to suspect this. In the last one year, such units have been busted in Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad. "We heard about it and are looking for effective measures to prevent wire-tapping," said Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner, detective department. Kolkata Police can also take tips from south-east Asian countries like Thailand and Philippines, where such rackets are active and law enforcement agencies have more experience in handling such crimes.

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