Gujarat becomes cybercrime hub during lockdown

On the night of August 8 in Ahmedabad, a police team raided a paan store near the Vishwakarma temple in the city’s Chandlodia district and arrested Anish Joshi, Vishal Sharma and Dhruv Hingol, all aged 19. . The team had been told that a gang had been involved in a cybercrime on Telegram, an encrypted mobile messaging app.

During questioning, it was revealed that the trio allegedly duped up to 1,100 people to the tune of Rs 18 lakh in the past four months by offering victims lucrative bogus discounts on electronic gadgets on Telegram.

“These defendants created three channels on the Telegram app in which they offered the latest cell phones, LED televisions and laptops at cheaper rates. The click bait often worked and when gullible victims contacted them, the accused would request a 50% advance through PayTm or Google Pay. Once the amount was sent, the victim’s number was instantly blocked. Their victims were not only from Ahmedabad or Gujarat, but also from other states, ”said JJ Rana, Deputy Police Inspector at Sola High Court Police Station.

The accused teens told police they thought of the plan in the first phase of the lockdown to make some quick cash.

In the midst of a global pandemic, the Gujarat Police Cybercrime Unit faces the dual challenge of not only thwarting financial fraud attempts from known hot spots, such as Jamtara of Jharkhand, Bharatpur of Rajasthan, Delhi-NCR or Mewat from Haryana, but also to keep a check on the emerging trend of fraudsters in Gujarat to use new modus operandi (MO) during lockdown.

According to data released by the Ahmedabad Police Cybercrime Unit, more than 15,300 financial fraud complaints were received from all over Gujarat between January and July of this year. Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot are the main centers from which complaints originate.

“Of these complaints, nearly 14% were related to PayTm KYC (Know Your Customer) fraud, nine percent were OLX website fraud, 13% were fraud related to spoofing identity, while the others constitute a variety of subtitles as the MO in cybercrime is constantly evolving. We have a dedicated team that continues to search for new OMs, “said Amit Vasava, Deputy Police Commissioner, Cyber Crime Cell.

On August 10 this year, the Ahmedabad Cybercrime Cell dismantled a bogus call center racketeering that was operated from an apartment in the residential area of ​​Godrej Garden City in Ahmedabad. Four young people, Raj Rathod (25), Anurag Kushwaha (29), Ajit Singh Rajput (23) and Saurabh Sharma (26), were targeting US citizens and their OM was similar to that of questionable call centers in Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad. The perpetrators posed as agents of a financial company and offered “payday loans” to the victims. Under this program, a short term loan ranging from US $ 300 to 900 is offered for a short period with a high interest rate and the loan is payable on the day the customer gets income.

“The defendants used certain apps to display US phone numbers every time they called a victim and told them they were eligible for a payday loan, but the amount is not transferred to their account because their” score credit “is lower. The accused used to ask the victim to pay a minimum account to his finance company, so that the amount of his so-called loan could be transferred.

The amount paid by the victims was through Walmart or Ebay gift cards, which were then cashed by the accused, ”said a Cyber ​​Crime Cell police official.

On August 12, the Ahmedabad Cybercrime Unit arrested two defendants, Sohil Khan Pathan and Mohsin Khan Pathan, both in their 20s, from the Rakhial region for allegedly duping nearly 200 victims of the eight States of Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya. Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Punjab. The duo have reportedly been in contact with fraudsters in Jharkhand and obtained phone numbers and other data from lakhs of unsuspecting victims. Using the MO from the Paytm KYC update, they have duped up to 190 people for Rs 1.13 crore in the past two years. The police recovered Rs 58.20 lakh as well as three laptops, 39 SIM cards, two mobiles and three SIM boxes.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gautam Kumawat, an ethical hacker and cybersecurity expert, said: “There is a reason we are seeing an increase in the number of young people turning to cybercrime during the lockdown. The money is crunched and they find these criminal methods easy. Regular work will earn them barely Rs 15,000 – Rs 20,000 per month. However, if they call 100 people a day and even if one or two of them get trapped in their phishing net, they end up earning Rs 15 lakh in a month.

However, Cyber ​​Crime Cell officials believe they are in a good position to deal with the upsurge in financial fraud, whether it originates in other states or in Gujarat.

“Our incident response unit as part of the Cyber ​​AASHVAST (Assured Assistance Service Helpline for Victims At Shortest Time) project succeeded in freezing the accounts of over 2,500 victims and prevented Rs 5.62 crore from entering in the accounts of fraudsters. We have removed over 200 scam ads on the OLX website and 197 phishing websites so far. The majority of the cases we come across are still from hot spots in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Delhi-NCR. However, we are also closely monitoring what is happening in the state, ”Vasava added.

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