Jiwan Kumar Pandit, a senior scientist working with ISRO in Bangalore, got an SMS alert on Sunday about Rs 19,350 paid through his credit card for three tickets on an Air India flight from Delhi to Bangalore. Pandit had not stirred out of the city nor had he used the credit card lately.
According to a Mirror report, Pandit immediately alerted his bank to block his card and lodged a complaint with Airport police.
He then consulted a friend who is an inspector working for the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The latter, in turn, contacted the CISF authorities at the Bangalore International Airport (BIA).
The passengers whose tickets had been paid for from his card turned out to be three bar girls. They were detained by the CISF as soon as they landed at Bangalore airport.
The CISF handed over the three girls to Airport police for investigations. But Bangalore police sent the girls home after giving them a clean chit.
Worse, the police even pressurised the scientist to withdraw the case after the girls' agent promised to give back the money paid for the tickets.
The scientist refused this deal and insisted on registering an FIR against the girls and those who gave them the tickets. The police finally condescended to file a miscellaneous case and not an FIR.
Airport police inspector Venkat Shetty maintained that the girls were “innocent” and that the tickets were booked by a person called Asmit and handed over to the girls by a man called Rajesh.
The girls were identified as Rajender Kaur, Gurupreet Kaur and Nittu Atwal, all from Punjab.
Pandit was unhappy that the police had missed out on a very good chance to unearth a credit card racket, something that affects thousands of cardholders like him. “I only wish that the police catch them (Asmit and Rajesh) soon. I am disappointed with what they have done even after getting so many clues,” he said.
This is not the first time that Bangalore police have bumped into the ‘credit card' flight ticketing fraudsters. Sometime ago, a similar case had been registered with the Sriramapuram police by a bank manager whose personal account was compromised by credit card fraudsters. Majority of the credit card details get leaked when used while checking into hotels.
“The racket usually comprises some tech wizard with a background in the banking industry, travel agents and people from the hospitality industry. They book air tickets and sell them at highly discounted prices to other travellers,” sources said.
The modus operandi is quite simple: When a person checks into a hotel, he enters his residential address in the register and gives his credit card for billing. The hotel staff (i.e., the ones part of the racket) at the reception, while swiping the card, takes note of the three-digit authorization code that is printed on the back of the card. The card is returned after it is swiped in the machine to the guest. The staff pass on the 16-digit credit card number and the authorisation code to the gang's mastermind.
A fortnight or a month after the guest checks out of the hotel, the gang carries out offline transactions using the credit card details that were stolen. In a majority of cases, such transactions pertain to purchase of air tickets as the stolen credit card details belong to frequent flyers whose travel schedule is intense.