Two Chinese nationals among 12 nabbed for defrauding ‘thousands’
Twelve people, including two Chinese nationals, have been arrested after raids across Delhi and the National Capital Region for luring Indian cellphone users into earning easy money by “liking” videos on social media platforms and “following” those accounts. The suspects main intention, police spokespersons claimed, was to install malware in these phones and installed banned software in them.
The two Chinese women, Chaohong Deng Daoyong, 27, and Wu Jiazhi, 54, were arrested from Lajpat Nagar.
“The suspects would use a malicious app to make phone users knowingly or unknowingly ‘follow’ social media accounts. This could be used later to manipulate and influence Indian users,” said Roy, adding that tens of millions of Indians had downloaded these “malicious” apps and there were at least 40,000 confirmed victims who had lost their money to this fraud within two months.
Investigators claimed that two other Chinese nationals, who the police believe to be the kingpins of the racket, are on the run. “They moved out of India in early 2020,” said Roy.
Roy said the fraud began when users started receiving WhatsApp messages containing encrypted URLs from international numbers. “These messages promised good, easy money in return for clicking the like button on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, and for following social media accounts,” said the DCP.
Clicking on the website link would lead to a link to download an app, Roy said
Upon registering on this app, users would receive social media videos to like and accounts to follow. They would be paid ₹6 for each such action. The number of tasks and amount paid for each action would rise substantially if the users opted for a “VIP membership”, by paying between Rs.1,000 and Rs.50,000.
The DCP said the gang floated this fraud as a multi-level marketing scheme, in which users could earn a percentage of a money made by people referred by them.
The police said tens of thousands of people ended up investing thousands of rupees each. Their earnings reflected in their accounts on the app, but was allegedly never handed over to their bank accounts.
By doing this, the gang made crores of rupees which were routed to shell companies in which Indians as well as Chinese people were found to be directors. “The Indians who were made directors were people like accountants, office boys and drivers working for the Chinese people,” Roy said.
Next, the social media accounts being promoted were being passed off as belonging to celebrities, but were actually freshly created accounts with unknown origin and ownership, the DCP said.
“When these social media accounts would receive a large number of followers, they could later be used to manipulate and influence Indian social media users,” Roy said.
While all this could be easily detected by the police, much more allegedly happened once the users downloaded the app. “The app would seek dangerous permission of users to discreetly install several software packages and apps. One of these apps was the QQ Browser app which belongs to the QQ family of apps banned by the Indian government in June last year,” said Roy.
The DCP said that the app itself was a malware that would make users “follow” thousands of social media accounts without their knowledge.
The website and app being used in the fraud were hosted to IPs found to be attached to Chinese companies, the DCP said.
The police said they began probing this fraud after receiving complaint from a woman who lost R50,000 .
Subsequently, on Wednesday, the police raided several places in Delhi-NCR to arrest the twelve suspects.
The police have allegedly recovered Rs.25 lakh in cash from them and froze several accounts containing nearly Rs.4.75 crore of the duped amount
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