For representational purpose only. (HT FILE)
For representational purpose only. (HT FILE)

Acting in golden hours, Mumbai cyber police saved 15 crore from criminals in 2020

According to an officer of the cyber wing, city cyber police has strengthened and enhanced their cyber fraud money prevention mechanism, under the guidance of joint commissioner of police (crime) Milind Bharambhe, wherein victims’ money can be saved before fraudsters can withdraw it or misuse it.
By Vijay Kumar Yadav, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:25 PM IST

Promptly responding in the first two hours, called the golden hours, after the occurrence of any cyber fraud, the Mumbai Police’s cyber wing prevented around 15 crore from being siphoned off by cybercriminals in 2020. Police managed to save the money as the victims approached the police timely with all banking details.

According to an officer of the cyber wing, city cyber police has strengthened and enhanced their cyber fraud money prevention mechanism, under the guidance of joint commissioner of police (crime) Milind Bharambhe, wherein victims’ money can be saved before fraudsters can withdraw it or misuse it.

“The enhanced mechanism ensures timely contacting banks concerned and tracing the disputed money and freezing it right there. As a result of this, last year the cyber police managed to prevent around 15 crore of victims of cybercrimes who approached us,” said Rashmi Karandikar, deputy commissioner of police (cyber).

These matters range from email phishing, online job frauds, online classified frauds, KYC update frauds, online loan fraud, matrimonial frauds, other OTP frauds, etc. In many cases, the stopped money has been returned to the victims.

“Like there is golden hour in road accidents, for cybercrimes or online frauds the first two hours are golden hours. The sooner the victims approach the police, the chances of saving or recovering the lost money becomes higher,” Karandikar added.

Kurla resident Fahad Shaikh had received a fraud call for KYC update and had shared the OTPs with fraudsters in a hurry as he was attending a funeral. “Moments later, 8 lakh were transferred from my bank account by fraudsters. I immediately approached cyber police and they managed to trace the entire amount and froze the account in which it was transferred to, before the fraudsters could withdraw or misuse it. I had saved this money for my daughter’s marriage and the cyber police’s timely action saved it. I got all my money back. I am very grateful to them,” Shaikh said.

Similarly, Sushil Sethia, a jeweller from Andheri, was made to click on a link by cyber fraudsters and all his banking details were compromised. “After I approached the cyber police, they immediately responded and my 92,000 were timely stopped and saved,” Sethia said.

The police said that people approach them late, provide them with incomplete information, incomplete or wrong email ids or account details; because of this, important time is wasted.

“When a cybercrime occurs, the victims are generally in shock and start making inquiries with friends and relatives to understand what exactly hit him/her and how to proceed further. The victims approache local police with a written application and the police tell them to get in touch with the bank and get the details about the disputed transactions and then a case gets registered. This whole process takes four to five days, but by that time, fraudsters withdraw the money from the account or use it,” said assistant commissioner of police (cyber) Nitin Jadhav.

Whenever a cyber fraud is committed, multiple bank accounts and e-wallets are used. So the cyber police have to first trace the disputed money and then freeze the said account. The entire process requires constant follow up and a team of cyber police personnel do it on a regularly basis.

Police sources said an internal system is devised by the department that generates a token or reference number of a fraud reported to cyber police and then the same is shared with the concerned bank or e-wallet service provider for freezing the disputed money. Once that’s done, the complainant is asked to approach the local police station and lodge a complaint for further legal pursuit of the matter, ACP Jadhav said.

The police further added that fraudsters have become smart. They target individuals on weekends or holiday or in the night hours when banking channels are closed. “Therefore to make the mechanism more productive and effective, the city cyber police have also written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) requesting them to issue directives to all the banks and e-wallet service providers to compulsorily make their nodal officers available 24×7 (for co-ordination with the police) so that the police’s timely intervention can save cyber fraud victim’s money. Non availability of bank’s nodal officer makes it a tough task for the police,” said a police source.

“We urge citizens to understand the importance of golden hours and report cybercrimes to police within the first two hours so that the suspicious transactions can be stopped in the bank and the money can saved,” the ACP said.

He further added that cyber police are prepared and well-equipped to take more such applications and save people’s money.

Cyber expert advocate Vicky Shah also said, “Approaching police in the first two hours is very important. And if the RBI wants to curb cybercrime, then the present ‘settlement cycle’ must be delayed by at least 24 hours. Delayed settlement cycle will prevent misuse of disputed funds. Also, the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) should make the process of issuance of mobile numbers more rigorous like the passport to prevent cybercrimes by 100% as mobile numbers are directly liked to bank accounts and is key to all KYC details.”

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