Three alleged cybercriminals from Jharkhand’s Jamtara area were arrested by Odisha Police four months after they ripped off ₹89,000 from a man in Kalahandi district who was trying to track books he had ordered for his chartered accountancy exam from a Raipur-based coaching institute, police officials said on Monday.
Police said arresting Raees Ansari (18), Mohammed Sajjad (26) and Abdul Ansari (22), all from Jamtara, infamous for its cybercriminals, was not easy. “Busting cybercriminals of Jamtara is very difficult considering they improvise their methods every time. The money that they ripped off had made its way to multiple accounts through PayTM and bank transfers. The criminals had taken all possible steps to evade the law,” said Kalahandi superintendent of police (SP) Dr Vivek M Saravana, who tracked the case over the last 4 months.
Vivek Agarwal of Kesinga town in Kalahandi district was trapped by the fraudster when he dialled the fake customer care number listed on a fake website for Sky King Courier company to enquire about the delayed shipment of his books on May 31 this year. The phone call was answered by a fraudster.
“When he called the landline number listed on the webpage, a man received the call and connected him to another person, who identified himself as the employee of the courier service. He assured the complainant that his books will be delivered soon and that there were some technical problems in delivery. He then sent a link to Agarwal’s mobile phone and asked him to send ₹5/- after filling up the form. The caller said it was a UPI payment link and asked him to enter his UPI number and PIN number. When Agarwal clicked on the link, a payment gateway, which was actually a phishing link created by the cybercriminals, appeared on his mobile phone,” said the SP.
Trusting the process, Agarwal entered sensitive data in the online form including UPI code, and pin. Within moments, a total of Rs. 89,000 was debited from his bank account in 11 installments while the cybercriminals engaged him in small talks. When Agarwal realised the fraud, he blocked his bank account and lodged a complaint with Kesinga police station on June 1.
During investigation, it was found that the money was credited to a few third party beneficiary bank accounts through intermediary online PayTM gateway. Examination of evidence gave rise to reasonable suspicion that the crime was carried out from Jamtara district.
The Kalahandi police team conducted a raid at Barmundi village in Jamtara and arrested the main accused Mohhamed Sajjad Ansari, a 5th standard pass out. Later, other accused Abdul Ansari and Raees Ansari were also arrested. The money that the gang had defrauded was routed to various local bank accounts in denominations below ₹50,000 to escape any scrutiny. The bank account holders used to charge 10% commission from gang members for channelling proceeds of crime.
Police said they have managed to freeze ₹50,000 from several bank accounts and the complainant will be returned the money after due process in the next few months.
Explaining the modus operandi of the cybercriminals caught in the case, police said the Jamtara gang had put out some fake customer care numbers on search engines as advertisements to lure unsuspecting victims.
Odisha recorded a sharp 31% rise in cyber crimes in 2020 with registration of 1,931 cases compared to 1,475 a year earlier. In 2018, the state saw 867 cases of cybercrime and 824 in 2017.
This year, at least 961 cybercrime cases have been registered from January 1 till June 30, said Dibya Shankar Mishra, minister of state for home. Most of the cybercrime cases were related to ATM and online banking fraud. Other motives included extortion, sexual exploitation and revenge. This year, 151 persons have been arrested, as per police records.
Police officials said online fraudsters were innovative in their methods and often blackmailed individuals after chatting with them on messaging apps. They also lured people with online offers of free mobile recharge and also through online payment applications and wallets.
In June, Odisha residents reported cyber crime worth more than ₹1.53 crore. From Bhubaneswar alone, the fraudsters managed to swindle more than ₹83 lakh in June. The same month Odisha Police busted a gang which was selling pre-activated SIM cards to cyber criminals outside the state with help from employees of private telecom operators and recovered 16,000 pre-activated SIM cards and more than 150 mobile phones from the seven accused.
In May this year, a 76-year-old retired government employee of Bhubaneswar lost ₹5 lakh to a cybercriminal when he called him posing as an official of a government owned telecom firm asking him to update his KYC details to ensure his SIM card is not deactivated. He managed to con Mishra and swindled ₹5 lakh from his SBI account through immediate payment service. However, police managed to bust the case and recovered ₹4.92 lakh from the accused.
Similarly in February, fraudsters managed to hack into two bank accounts of a retired doctor in Bhubaneswar and swindled ₹77.86 lakh in a space of 6 days while posing as bank officials and accessing his computer through Teamviewer application on the pretext of helping him retain his BSNL number which was attached to the retired officer’s different Bank accounts.
The state government has now proposed 28 cyber police stations with permanent executive component and domain experts including cyber forensics and IT experts in 13 districts. Currently, 4 cyber police stations are functioning at Rourkela, Sambalpur, Berhampur and Bhubaneswar. As one of the reasons for increasing cyber crimes is lack of awareness among the public, an extensive IEC campaign will be conducted across the state.
Police officials tracking cybercrime in Odisha over the last few years said, reporting such cases quickly is the key to its cracking. “In most cases people complain when the money has made its way to bank accounts through payment getaways. The transfer can be stopped at payment gateways if a complaint is lodged quickly. But people are late to realise the fraud and in most cases they carelessly click on suspicious links,” said Soumendra Priyadarshi, commissioner of police, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack.
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