Online banking frauds, including fraudulent ATM withdrawals, unauthorised debit and credit card transactions, data theft and hacking, are on the rise in Gurugram, with the city’s Cyber Crime Cell having registered 950 such cases till 15 April.
According to police records, 2,402 cases were registered with the Cell in 2016, 1343 (more than 50%) of which were frauds related to online banking and cheating through credit/debit cards by misuse of the card details. In 2015, the figures stood at around 1900.
In one such case, as told to The Sunday Guardian by an official in the Cyber Crime Cell, over 5,000 investors were duped of Rs 8 crore by Profit Network—a company that offered returns for clicking on advertisement links. Four people were nabbed by the Gurugram police after a probe was launched by a Special Investigating Team. Cell phones of the four accused were tracked after which they were arrested and the company’s three bank accounts containing 90 lakh were seized in February this year.
In another case in March, a woman was duped of over 10 lakh by a “non-Indian” man she “met” and started communicating with on a matrimonial website. The man, the official said, was a Nigerian, who told the woman he was detained at the airport for carrying a huge amount of money while he was coming to see her, and asked her money to pay for the penalty. His accomplice, also a Nigerian, played the officer from the Customs Department at the airport. The man later asked her to deposit more money since he was devoid of all the cash he had.
“The cases have been on a rise like never before. We are currently dealing with 15 cases of online frauds. In another case, a man was cheated of Rs 30 lakh by Now Naukri—an online job portal that promised him the post of a general manager at some organisation. He was asked to pay over Rs 4 lakh in advance, and later over Rs 26 lakh more,” Manoj Kumar, in-charge head constable, Cyber Crime Cell, Gurugram, said.
Out of the 960 complaints received in 2017 so far, 650 cases were of bank account frauds while the rest were related to hacking of accounts and morphing of pictures. In one such case, Nitin Sharma, a resident of Gurugram, got a call from a man who said he was calling from the Punjab National Bank in Mumbai and asked him for his bank account details lest his account would be blocked. Sharma later discovered that three transactions worth Rs 60,000 were done from his account.
Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 provides for an imprisonment of three years and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh for the breach of data protection laws stated under the Act. However, experts said that the conviction rate is almost zero.
Calling the cyber laws of India “weak and handicapped” in providing security cover, Pawan Duggal, a cyber security expert, said: “It is primarily because of the amendment in the Information Technology Act of 2008, which made almost all cyber related crimes bailable offences, that there haven’t been enough convictions to set a precedent. In a country of billions that witnesses daily instances of cyber crime, total number of convictions stand at a double digit. The law needs to be strengthened to make way for stringent punishments.”
Rakshit Tandon, Advisory to Cyber Crime Cell, Uttar Pradesh, asserted that a thriving industry of data providers, called data merchants who possess huge amount of users’ personal data, have started running sites that openly advertise and sell data comprising users’ bank account and credit/debit card details, hence making deception an easy affair.
Kumar, however, said that victims of such crimes were equally responsible. “The people who fall prey to these practices are the educated lot. Yet, all it takes is a well-speaking, professional-sounding person to dupe them of lakhs of money. With increasing internet penetration, people are leaving their digital footprints all over. They leave information on matrimonial and job portals in a hope it would be accessed by a potential third-party. Who ends up misusing whose information can’t be predicted. People need to be more aware and cautious.”