Cyber crime cases went up during lockdown, shows Delhi police data

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByShiv Sunny
Dec 25, 2020 02:53 AM IST

For instance, in January this year, 1,480 cyber crimes -- or about 48 offences every day – were reported against 4,188 cases in May. In April, the cases stood at 3,372, in June at 3,239 and in July at 4,103.

There was a significant spike in cyber crimes in Delhi during the Covid-19 induced lockdown with as many as 135 such offences being reported every day on an average in May, the Delhi Police said after analysing nearly 33,000 cases registered until November this year.

Cyber crime
Cyber crime

For instance, in January this year, 1,480 cyber crimes -- or about 48 offences every day – were reported against 4,188 cases in May. In April, the cases stood at 3,372, in June at 3,239 and in July at 4,103.

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Anyesh Roy, deputy commissioner of police (cyber crime unit), said with concerted efforts to raise awareness against cyber frauds, including sharing case studies on radio programmes to reach a large audience and short videos shared on WhatsApp, cases of cyber crimes are slowly coming down. In November, for instance, 2,634 cases at a daily average of 88 offences were reported to the Delhi Police.

Roy attributed the spike in cyber crimes during the lockdown to the increase in online shopping as markets stayed shut.

“Many bogus sites with poor credibility cropped up to take advantage of people who had increased their use of digital platforms for shopping. Under normal circumstances, the public wouldn’t have generally used those sites for shopping,” said Roy, adding that it couldn’t be said if street criminals migrated to online frauds.

“It is rather the existing online fraudsters who scaled up their operations and came up with new ideas of cyber crimes,” said Roy.

The cyber crime unit has analysed these offences to conclude that 62% of them were online financial frauds, 24% were social media harassment that included morphing photos of people and sexual harassment, and the rest 14% were other crimes such as hacking, identity theft and data theft.

Further analysis of cases, police said, also pointed to regions from where certain kinds of cyber criminals operated. The Mewat region, for instance, was found to be a hot spot of cyber frauds duping people by sending fake messages through fake social media profiles. From north and northwest Delhi and NCR towns such as Noida and Gurugram, fake call centres were being run which cheated people by offering tech support in the name of reputed software companies. Fake websites on government schemes were mostly tracked to people in north Rajasthan and south Bihar, the police’s analysis found.

Besides government office and private firms, at least 165,000 individuals were targeted in 12 cases termed as ‘mega frauds’ by the police. Among cases that were counted as ‘mega frauds’, DCP Roy cited the case in which free solar panels and laptops were being offered using a fake website by misusing the Prime Minister’s name. While only three persons arrested for this alleged fraud, their website had garnered more than 1.5 million hits in two days and over one lakh persons were duped, said Roy.

Overall, for the 12 mega frauds, the police registered 65 first information reports (FIRs) and arrested 125 suspects.

Overall, 214 cyber offenders have been arrested this year.

How rampant the cyber crimes are in the national capital can be gauged from the fact that in the 10 days until Thursday, five fake call centres have been busted here.

The cyber crime unit was also kept busy through the year blocking “objectionable content” on social media platforms. The police requested platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube to block as many as 278 accounts this year. “The most such accounts blocked were 140 on Twitter,” said Roy.

Apart from the centralised cyber crime unit, each district of Delhi Police too has its own cyber cells. These too were flooded with complaints. Of the 32,896 cyber crimes reported until November, 2,349 were in these districts.

Vikram Singh, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, attributed the spike in cyber crimes during and after the lockdown to unemployment, cash crunch, lots of spare time and easy availability of tools.

“The tools required for cyber crimes are minimum. In half such crimes, those with basic knowledge of computers can operate if they have internet connection and a mobile phone. They had empty minds, abundant time and found it an easy work that paid well and the getaway was easy,” said Singh.

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