Chennai: The arrest of two Bulgarian nationals from a lodge in Semmencherry on Wednesday has taken the lid off a racket that cloned credit and debit cards using details of customers mainly in US and Europe. Police suspect it could be linked to an international network. A court later sent Peter Velikov, 47, and Ilianzdravkov Markov, 36, to jail.
The case came to light when the two men, who had been staying in a double bedroom at the hotel in Kumaran Nagar in Semmencherry, off Old Mahabalipuram Road, decided to extend their stay and one of them gave a blank white card to pay the additional Rs 3,000 the staff demanded.
Suspicious over the card, the cashier questioned the men who asked him to swipe it, said an officer. Cash was credited to the hotel’s account, but the still doubtful cashier alerted the manager who told the Semmancherry police. A team led by ispector Sivakumar arrived and searched the room where they found many blank cards with magnetic strips. The team called up the bank fraud prevention wing. A squad led by inspector Selvarani rushed there and arrested the men.
The officers who seized the blank cards, decoders and other gadgets, apart from Rs 10 lakh in Indian currency and 4,400 Euros, found that Velikov and Markov were part of larger racket and came down to Chennai with stolen credit card and debit card data from abroad. They had been cloning several credit and debit cards using the decoder and other gadgets brought from abroad, said an officer. A pen drive with details of credit or debit cards is plugged to the decoder which retrieves the details. A blank card with the magentic strip is then swiped in the decoder and becomes a ‘genuine’ card, the officer said.
Some of the hotel staff told police that the two men often left their room in the evening and returned after three to four hours.
Inquiries revealed that Velikov, who came to India on a tourist visa valid for a year, reached Chennai in early April, while Markov joined him on April 25. The arrested men had not been using mobile phones and it was tough to establish their contacts with others, said a police officer, adding that they might have had some city residents helping them.
In November last year, Romanian nationals George Sorici, 37, and Nicolai Ciumpileac, 35, were arrested in Madipakkam for their involvement in a similar operation.

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