Tricity grapples with a new epidemic: Cyber crime

Not a day goes by when the UT police does not register a case of cyber crime. Police officers say if this carries on, cyber crimes will be on top of the crime chart in Chandigarh. In the first four months of this year itself, the city police has registered 70 per cent FIRs related to cyber crimes, compared to 2021.

A look at the statistics of the Chandigarh Police’s Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) shows a total of 5,922 complaints and 67 FIRs related to cyber crimes in 2021. A total of 2,130 complaints (which amounts to 35 per cent of the total complaints received) and 47 FIRs (70 per cent of the total FIRs lodged) have already been registered between January 1 and April 30 this year. At least 1,550 of the total 2,130 complaints received this year relate to fraudulent transactions, online transactions asking for PIN, debit/credit card details, etc. Besides these, they also received 519 complaints related to harassment, abusive calls, messages through WhatsApp, IMO, VOIP calls, etc.

“The maximum number of FIRs that we register these days relate to cyber crimes. It is one of the reasons among others behind the increasing number of cybercrime related cases. Simultaneously, there is an improvement in the detection ratio also. We are able to arrest the people involved in these cases from far reaching places. For speedy court trials of cybercrime related cases, securing the conviction of accused, meetings are going on with judicial officers at many levels. There is awareness about cyber crimes among people. But a lot to achieve yet. We need to do a lot of work at many levels if we want to make a cyber crime free city,” SP (Cyber) Ketan Bansal, said.

Chandigarh is a member of Joint Cybercrime Coordination Team (JCCT) Group-5. Other states/UTs in the JCCT Group-5 include Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. A high level meeting of the JCCT Group-5 which was attended by DGPs of many states along with the officers from the Ministry of home Affairs (MHA) took place last month in Chandigarh.

“The aim behind holding such high level meetings is to increase the efficiency and improve the coordination among the different investigation agencies. As we all know, financial frauds through online modes are the biggest threat in the present time before us. It involves many sectors including banks, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), social networking sites, etc., which require a lot of correspondence online and offline. In the meeting, we stress to follow such a mechanism through which the coordination among all the institutes becomes smooth and flexible,” a senior police officer said. There are seven JCCTs, which include all the states and UTs.

“We launched a full-fledged campaign titled Cyber Swachhata Mission in Chandigarh involving hundreds of students of computer science and related subjects as cyber interns with the CCIC. Many surveys were conducted. Modus operandi were shortlisted, reasons behind why people increasingly falling in the traps of fraudsters, solutions for cyber crimes and techniques through which shortcomings of the investigation agencies can be sorted out were shortlisted,” the Chandigarh police’s CCIC incharge, Inspector Hari Om, said.

Nobody is immune

In the two-month survey, many aspects were covered by cyber interns. The survey suggests that people of all age groups ranging from 15 to 80-years were among the victims targeted successfully and unsuccessfully by fraudsters. Interestingly, in many cases, timely information to the cyber cell about hacking, sharing of confidential details, etc., resulted in the saving money.

Sources in UT cyber cell said, “There are a number of cases when we received information within moments after the crime. We immediately urged the concerned bank management to block the account number or freeze it, so the money could not be withdrawn/ transferred. In many incidents, we were successful. The victims themselves can approach the banks.”

1930 is the centralised National Cyber Crime reporting helpline number. The number is linked with the control room of many states including Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana.

When The Indian Express phoned the helpline number, the response was only received from the Chandigarh desk, which can be reached by dialing the extension 3. There was no response for 1 and 2, to reach the Punjab and Haryana police desks, respectively.

“The cyber criminals are outsmarts. They are ahead in technology also. Though the figures of cyber crimes have been increasing, most crimes remain un-reported due to social stigma and a reason why cyber criminals remain scot-free. Further, there is no lamination of any geographical boundaries. They operate across the world and they need not be physically present at spot. This complexity makes it harder for the LEA to completely curb this menace,” Gurcharan Singh, cyber faculty head in Central Detective Training School (CDTS), Sector 26, had told The Indian Express, in an interview last month.

Gurcharan Singh’s observation was evident from the fact when Vikas alias Vicky (23) from Fatehabad in Haryana arrested by the Chandigarh cyber cell was found linked to at least 1,352 cyber crime cases reported across the country on May 9.

Eight cell phones and four International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers seized from Vikas were uploaded on the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (ICCC) portal. The portal found the numbers linked with 1,352 cyber crime cases. The ICCC is a centralised portal where the police of every state/UT upload the numbers of seized mobile sets along with their IMEI numbers. Vicky was arrested in connection with the fraud of Rs 83,979 from a woman on the pretext of refunding her money related to her SBI credit card on April 18.

Panchkula, Mohali privy too

Neighboring cities including Panchkula and Mohali are also privy to cyber crimes. According to ACP (Panchkula) Raj Kumar Kaushik, at least 100 cases in which fraudsters duped people merely on the pretext of updating their Know Your Customer (KYC) details pertaining to their bank accounts have been reported only in Panchkula.

How to avoid getting cheated

* Avoid sharing any particulars like bank account details with strangers directly or over the phone.

* If you have been cheated, immediately call the toll-free helpline 1930.

* If you do not receive a response from your bank after reporting a fraud, contact the Banking Ombudsman at RBI, Sector 17.

* Get sensitised about online banking and transactions before using online banking services.

KYC details

A common way to fraudsters obtain confidential details from people is by asking for their Know Your Customer (KYC) details, for them to be able to continue their bank accounts, credit cards, etc. As one shares their particulars, fraudsters begin online shopping. They also demand a One Time Password (OTP) which comes on the phone of the victim. RBI has cleared it multiple times that no bank is authorised to collect KYC details of customers over phone.

Dish TV recharge/ coupons/ phone bill payment

Text messages with a web link sent on the cell phones of people urging them to recharge their dish TV subscriptions, coupons, or to make payments of pending mobile bills. The link, once opened, will follow with instructions that require confidential details to be shared. It is not advisable to click these unknown weblinks.

Extortion after befriending people on social media

Many organised gangs involving women are active that target people. Many senior citizens have become victims of these gangs. A member usually befriends one, often urging them to perform obscene acts on the video calls using women’s faces. These videos are recorded and later used to blackmail and extort money.

AnyDesk link

AnyDesk, a mobile application that allows another user to see and interact with another computer system over the Internet, has been used since the onset of the pandemic, due to many organisations working from home. The link is sent on the phone of the victim urging them to click to update KYC details, pay online mobile bills, etc. UT has reported a dozen cases, where people lost lakhs, by clicking on an AnyDesk link.

Paytm, GPay QR codes

Cheating people by making payments through Paytm or GPay QR codes mostly happen in online shopping, or while making payments to strangers. People are asked to initiate a payment of Rs 10, or less, and share the QR code along with it. This establishes a link with the fraudster, who is able to hack into the the bank account linked with the code, and access the money. However, this is not the same as paying a merchant through a QR code at a shop. People are advised not to share QR codes with strangers.

Insurance schemes, investments

Many retired people are being targeted with insurance schemes. To gain the trust of victims, fraudsters transfer interest rates over the invested money into the accounts of the victims in the initial months but stop making payments when the victims invest a larger sum in the scheme. In some cases, fraudsters charge a fee if the victim wants to obtain their full amount, which will never be given.

Bitcoin scams, instant loan providing apps

Investment in low price Bitcoins is popular among youngsters. There is no immediate remedy in the Bitcoin cheating cases. Shibonk, Dogecoin and Titcoin along with two other crypto currencies are the most famous among the investors. It is easy for people to purchase these crypto currencies. A number of instant loan providing mobile applications at high interest rate are there. As one downloads the app, the contact list automatically goes to the handlers. In case when one fails to pay the money, false messages are sent to the contacts.

Theft of SIM cards, swapping of cards

SIM card of the victim is stolen and is placed in their handsets, accessing all control over online banking, etc. They change the online banking password after visiting the option ‘forget password’. The OTP also lands in their handsets. ATM/debit card swapping, mostly happen when someone does not know how to operate the machine properly. Criminals swap these on the pretext of assisting the victims.

Stealing profiles, hacking emails

Suspects create fake profiles on Facebook using particulars of genuine people and sending messages/emails to their contacts about emergency financial help. They mention bank accounts in the messages/emails. In the recent past, many such cases were reported including profiles of serving and retired UT officers.

Job promises, air tickets, visas

Fraudsters invite applications for jobs on the fake portals which match reputed job providing portals by changing alphabets. They obtain bio-datas, send them confirmation letters of jobs in foreign countries, MNCs and charge a heavy fee.

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