State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank and its subsidiary banks have blocked around 6.25 lakh debit cards after a sudden surge in transactions at third-party ATM machines, subsequently sending emails and SMSs to surprised customers, asking them to reapply for new cards.
Examining a suspected ATM machine recently, police and forensic officials recovered a skimmer device hidden in the smoke detector on the ceiling.
The bank was on high alert after customers lost massive amounts of money.
Retired IAS officer CV Ananda Bose, a customer of the Federal Bank, claims to have lost about Rs 3 lakh from his account in the scam.
“When my son in the US tried to withdraw some money, he was informed that the account had insufficient funds. I immediately contacted my bank, Federal Bank, and MasterCard and I was told six transactions were made in last two days, emptying my account,” Bose said, adding that he filed a complaint with the bank and the US embassy.
According to SBI, the damage has affected other banks as well.
“The damage has been done to many other bank debit cards, including foreign and private banks. This happened a month ago and we saw some data of customers being compromised. With such large number of cards involved, we thought it was better to replace the cards entirely. Largely the cards were magnetic-based,” said an SBI general manager
“About 0.25% of our cards have been blocked. We came to know that some of our customers have used them at some virus-infected ATMs. These were white label ATMs operated by Hitachi payment services,” said Shiv Kumar Bhasin, chief technology officer at SBI, without elaborating.
The bank reportedly blocked the cards to avoid misuse.
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From a total amount of nearly 20.27 crore debit cards issued by SBI, 0.25% or about 5.07 lakh cards have been blocked, including those from SBI’s subsidiary banks of State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore and State Bank of Patiala.
“We’d like to emphasise that SBI’s systems have absolutely not been compromised and existing cardholders are not at any risk and can continue to use their cards. SBI is in the process of issuing new cards at no cost to those card holders whose cards have been blocked,” an SBI spokesperson said.
Reserve Bank of India has asked all banks to upgrade their debit cards into chip-based EMV cards, which have added layers of security. In a chip-based card, information is not validated by bank servers unless the correct PIN is used, whereas information on a magnetic strip is easily accessible.