Molly Kilete, Abuja
Two members of a gang, specialising in robbing innocent Nigerians of their Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards were recently arrested in Abuja. They confessed they confessed to have made illegal withdrawals from their victims’ bank accounts thereafter, since they started operation about three years ago.
So far, they have withdrawn over N3 million but could not give account of how and what they used the money for. The suspects are holders of BSc degrees in Education Technology and Animal Nutrition. They operated in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as well as Enugu, Plateau, Bauchi and Benue states.
They were arrested by men of the IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT), following several complains from the public. The duo, indigenes of Benue State, started the “business” in 2016. They confessed to the crimes and were convicted.
Undeterred, upon completing their prison terms, they participated in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) but gathered more momentum and went back to their criminal ways.
They confessed to have been collaborating with other persons who are now at large to carry out the act. They operated by loitering around ATM points pretending to assist people having difficulties or network challenges.
As soon as they approached you, two things could happen. They either tried to help you; in the process exchanged your ATM card with theirs that was clearly inactive. They then left you not only without cash but, with a defective card. Or they helped you to make the withdrawals. After you have withdrawn the cash, they would exchange your card with a defective card in which case you would leave the ATM point with cash but with an ATM card that is inactive and that is not yours.
A total of 184 ATM cards from different banks and bearing different names were recovered from them at the time of their arrest. The leader of the gang and his partner who are now looking sober promised not to go back into the crime if set free by the police.
But the police say that is always the promises made by criminals each time they are caught. He spoke with Daily Sun:
“My name is Akura from Benue State. I am 30 years old and a BSc holder in Educational Technology from the Benue State University. My partner is Mwuse, 31-year-old graduate of Animal Nutrition from the University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
“On how we operate, we normally go to ATM stands and pretend as if we want to make withdrawals and sometimes we actually make withdrawals. Usually when we go there, we will be watching people coming to withdraw and we may pretend that we are having network challenges until we find a victim having the same problem and cash into the opportunity.
“At that point, if the person wants to withdraw, we just step forward as if we want to help the person. In the process of helping, once we remove the card, we swap the card and give the person a replica of the card he or she brought to the point and go after we might have their PIN number.
“We get the PIN number of the victims by standing very close to them especially when they want to impute PIN. We will be behind you watching your hands as you are punching the numbers, that’s how we get the PIN number.
“We have been in this business since 2016. I went into it after I had graduated from the university. We started in 2016, and we were arrested that same year and charged to court. After our release from custody, we went for our National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
“I have made over N3million since I started the illegal business. But I cannot pin point what good thing that we have done with the money. The money does not come at ones, it comes in trickles; it doesn’t come in bulk. “Sometimes it comes in thousands and sometimes in hundreds. It also depends on the kind of people that you do the work with that is how share whatever you make for the day.
“I am not married yet. I spend my time by working in fact, before I was caught I was actually working. I was doing a contract with Society for Family Health.
“My advise to the public, especially people who make use of the ATM point is that once at the ATM point, they should not allow anybody interfere with their card. When they want to impute their PIN, they should make sure that they hide the PIN. And they shouldn’t allow anybody have access to their card or touch their card at the ATM point.
“We operate at any time of the day, we don’t have a particular time when we operate. We operate anytime we want to. I feel very, very bad now that I have been arrested. I advise young persons not to go into this kind of thing.”