“Bengaluru techie falls prey to fake police cyber fraud gang, loses Rs 33 lakh.”
“Software engineer from Bengaluru loses Rs 64,000 in an online rental scam.”
“Bengaluru-based techie scammed over a fake hit-and-run case and fake terror-funding claims, cheated of Rs 97,000.
Familiar headlines? If yes, then it is time to be alert, verify, and scrutinise every unknown caller or message before making a transaction. Ignore and you risk falling prey to cybercriminals who are growing by the hundreds in India’s Silicon Valley, say the police.
This year, Bengaluru has seen the highest number of cybercrime cases reported in seven years, with 12,615 instances being reported and a staggering Rs 470 crore being lost to online scammers between January and September.
According to the statistics from the cybercrime department in Bengaluru, the city has seen a 25 per cent rise in financial fraud cases within the span of just one year.
News18 has accessed records from 2017 to 2023, which show that the number of cases of online money transfer/debit/credit card fraud and job fraud has been steadily increasing. This also forms the largest chunk of cases reported against cybercriminals in the city.
In 2017, the number of investment fraud cases recorded was 1500, which spiked to 4,252 in 2022, and presently is 4,235 cases, including debit/credit card fraud as well as business opportunity fraud calls.
Largely termed investment fraud, cybercriminals target people by luring them with business opportunities, especially as an additional source of income.
We give you an idea of the general modus operandi adopted by these criminals and how you can keep your money safe.
“First of all, people should not believe information that is communicated over the phone by a random caller or a message on WhatsApp. One should use discretion and common sense, vet every single call/message from numbers that are not from your caller list,” said a senior police officer. “The saddest part is that the maximum number of people who fall prey to such fraudsters are highly educated as well as elderly people. People may be educated, but not wise. People should not fall prey to greed. Then 80 per cent of the cases will not take place.”
A police official working closely with tracking, tracing, and resolving cybercrime cases said that these criminals target their victims by baiting or tempting them with better financial gains.
“There are people who aspire to have another side income, which will help them improve their lifestyle. This trend we have seen in the past two to three years,” the officer explained.
How do they go about it? A person first gets a call saying an app has been developed where people can invest Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per month, and they would get returns of Rs 200-300. In order to show that money, the criminals do a similar transaction with another set of victims and transfer Rs 200 to the first set.
“That way they begin to believe that the offer is genuine and they can make a fast buck. Greed drives people to invest more and more. Some have even invested in lakhs only to be duped as they fold up and run away with the money,” said the officer.
But how do they create accounts that are not traceable and can handle such big amounts?
The criminals seek the help of low-income people like farmers, autorickshaw drivers, or house helpers to open bank accounts in their name. They convince them that they would give them a share of the money for it, and then transactions into lakhs take place, the officer said.
“People would believe it to be a genuine account as all documents, including Aadhaar and PAN card, would be valid. They make it as close to reality as possible. They even create WhatsApp chat groups, and people discuss they have received a bonus, so the others also begin to believe that the money transaction is genuine,” the officer explained.
As such modus operandi gets exposed, the criminals are also innovating new ways of duping people.
Kshitij, an investment banker in Bengaluru, received a call claiming they were customs officials from the Mumbai airport and a parcel allegedly containing drugs marked in his name had been detained. He received the call and promptly informed the cyber cell of the details.
A similar call went to PR professional Sunitha PK, who was given the same information, and was asked to be present at the customs office in Mumbai on a date mentioned.
“When I tried to call back on the number, it was diverted to a prepaid number of a shop in Bandra. I let it go. But next time I will surely register it as a case,” she said, sharing her experience with New18.
“Such cases are also on the rise. All we can say is beware and be smart,” the senior cybercrime official said.
Other kinds of fraud that people seem to be falling victim to are data theft, social media identity theft, scams seeking advance payment for free gifts like iPhones, expensive gifts, loans, and gold schemes. Another fraud that is seeing a hike involves bitcoins. Between 2017 and 2021, there were no cases at all. However, from 2022 till date, there has been a 46 per cent increase, the officer said.