In 4 years, Ggm cyber fraud losses surge by 12 times - Hindustan Times
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In 4 years, Ggm cyber fraud losses surge by 12 times

Jan 29, 2024 06:24 AM IST

According to Gurugram police, the amount of money that cybercriminals have defrauded from the residents of the Millennium City has seen a massive jump — from a reported ₹12 crore in 2019, to ₹147 crore in 2023.

Surjeet Singh, 42, was at his home at Mohammadpur in Gurugram’s Sector 36 on June 25 when he received a message from an unknown number on WhatsApp. The message said that he was being offered a part-time job at a reputed e-commerce site, and claimed that they got Singh’s number from his friend.

Police attribute the massive spike in cybercrime cases to increased use of the internet, remote working and automation in banking services. (File)
Police attribute the massive spike in cybercrime cases to increased use of the internet, remote working and automation in banking services. (File)

After Singh expressed his interest in joining up, he was sent a link and was told that he would have to purchase certain items for the firm, and would receive payment for this.

The 42-year-old ended up getting duped of 1.6 crore over a four-day period, according to Vipin Ahlawat, assistant commissioner of police (cyber crime).

He is not alone. According to Gurugram police, the amount of money that cybercriminals have defrauded from the residents of the Millennium City has seen a massive jump — from a reported 12 crore in 2019, to 147 crore in 2023.

Officials said that the number of cybercrime complaints lodged in 2023 crossed the 30,000-mark by December — nearly double the 18,717 complaints lodged in 2022, and far more than the 7,765 complaints in 2019.

Police attribute this massive spike in cybercrime cases to increased use of the internet, remote working and automation in banking services.

However, the rate of recovery remains woefully poor and has in fact decreased — investigators managed to recover 2.5 crore from cybercriminals in 2019 (around 20% of the total money duped), while in 2023, this figure was only 22 crore (around 15% of the total).

Police arrested 581 cyber conmen till November 30 this year, while only 117 accused were arrested last year.

HT on January 4 reported that Delhi in 2023 had the highest number of cybercrime complaints in the country (755 cases registered per 100,000 people), followed by Chandigarh (432) and Haryana (381).

The national cybercrime rate is 129 per 100,000 citizens.

Modus operandi

According to police officers, cyber fraudsters usually employ two tried-and-tested methods to defraud their victims.

The first method involves the criminal alluring unsuspecting people with work-from-home opportunities and convincing them to part with money as payment for “forms”.

One such victim was Meha Sethi, 38, a resident of Sector 28, who received an invite on the messaging app Telegram from fraudsters claiming to be part of a US-based movie chain. Sethi was told that she would be working as an agent to rate movies for the chain, and the fraudsters even created a fake website similar to that of the US firm with a secured agent log-in portal, police officers said.

In the end, Sethi was duped of around 28 lakh, none of which has been recovered so far, police said.

In the second method, the criminal impersonates customs officials and terrifies victims into paying for “illegal” packages.

One such victim, a 26-year-old woman working with an automobile company in Gurugram who declined to share her name, was allegedly duped of 13 lakh by a man she met on a matrimonial website. The police said the man claimed to be working abroad and said he wanted to come to India to meet her, for which he required financial assistance since he was carrying foreign currency. With the help of his aide, who posed as a customs official, the suspect asked her to transfer the money online in multiple transactions.

After she transferred the money and the man stopped responding to her messages, the woman realised she had been duped.

This year, a major chunk of cyber fraud cases involved these two methods, said deputy commissioner of police (cybercrime) Siddhant Jain. “At the same time, people were also cheated by adopting tricks like online liquor delivery and renting houses,” he said.

Cyber fraudsters also often use what police call “disguised communication” — forged emails or calls designed to trick people into revealing passwords or personal details, which allows the criminals to withdraw their money.

According to a recent report from cybersecurity firm CloudSEK, cybercriminals integrate ‘vishing’ techniques (voice phishing) with emerging OTP grabber services to escalate their activities. Cybercriminals are using these techniques to manipulate the users into revealing their one-time passwords.

A senior officer investigating cybercrime cases said these fraudsters often work as a network — from making phone calls to withdrawing the fraudulently obtained money, everyone is given different tasks. “Bank accounts and SIM cards are obtained either on the basis of fake documents, or by misguiding people of lower social strata and by offering them money,” the officer said.

“The defrauded money is distributed among gang members after withdrawing it from ATMs in other states. The percentage of the defrauded money is pre-determined, according to the work that each member of the racket has been assigned,” the officer said.

‘New Jamtara’ in south Haryana

In November, the four cybercrime police stations in Gurugram — at DLF, Gurugram East, Gurugram South, and Manesar — were directed to carry out periodic surveillance of 48 villages in Nuh district. These villages, officers said, were where many cybercrimes plaguing the National Capital Region (NCR) originate, leading to investigators referring to Nuh as the “New Jamtara”, after the Jharkhand district informally known in police circles as the “phishing capital of India”.

Jain said that after surveillance of the Nuh villages, more than 2,600 SIM cards used in cybercrimes across NCR were blocked with help of telecom operators.

“Action was taken only after customer acquisition forms (CAF) of all these SIM cards were procured by police and it was found that they all were issued from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and other telecom circles outside Haryana and NCR,” Jain said, adding that 2,599 bank accounts linked to these phone numbers have also been frozen to stop movement of defrauded money.

Poor recovery rate

Senior police officials said that at present, the recovery rate of defrauded money in cybercrime cases is less than that of the national average (2-8%), according to police, and corrective measures are being taken to improve this, including real-time coordination with the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre to block fraudulent money transfers.

On the directions of the Haryana Police headquarters, teams of officers tackling cybercrime in Gurugram were formed in November, and were stationed in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal in order to crack down on cybercriminals in real time.

In addition, a state-level cybercrime coordination centre will also start functioning in Gurugram to tackle the menace, the officers said.

“The state-level centre will coordinate with nodal officers of 11-12 public and private banks to spot fraudulent transactions or freeze the accounts of suspects. This will help in improving our money recovery rate,” a second police officer said, declining to be named.

The officer added that domestic telecom network giants Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone have also agreed to cooperate with police in real time by blocking the SIM cards of fraudsters.

HT reached out to these telecom firms, but representatives of the companies did not comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, police warn that the best way for people to not be defrauded by cybercriminals is to be vigilant.

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