Social media crime recorded 100% rise in 2021 in Pune

PUNE Technology has been a silver lining during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic as communication, business and personal interactions moved online
The number of cybercrime complaints reported based on misuse of social networking sites doubled in 2021 compared to 2020. (REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE)
The number of cybercrime complaints reported based on misuse of social networking sites doubled in 2021 compared to 2020. (REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE)
Published on Jan 17, 2022 11:03 PM IST
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ByShalaka Shinde

PUNE Technology has been a silver lining during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic as communication, business and personal interactions moved online. But cybercrime remains a problem for citizens and the police in Pune.

The number of cybercrime complaints reported based on misuse of social networking sites doubled in 2021 compared to 2020. The overall number of complaints have seen an exponential increase since 2018. The city cybercrime cell received 19,023 total complaints in 2021 that belong to various categories, such as monetary frauds, sending vulgar messages on phones, email hacking, stealing online data and defaming people by posting morphed pictures in social media and many more. According to Pune cybercrime police data, 14,950 such complaints were reported in 2020 and 7,795 in 2019.

The methods of defrauding people have become innovative, according to Bhagyashree Navatake, deputy commissioner of police, cybercrime and Economic offence wing of Pune police. “There were innovative ways of defrauding people every 8-10 days. When Covid began, the number of cases of calling up positive patients and duping them increased. This happened in addition to the casual approach of people who click on links and share OTP. The use of e-commerce and various kinds of software also increased . These factors contributed to the rise in cases,” said DCP Navatake.

Among social media-related cybercrime, the cases from popular platforms Facebook and Instagram are the highest. The city police introduced a new section for its records for “sextortion” and “friendship fraud”, on Facebook and Instagram, which consist of cases of using sexual images or videos for extortion. The highest number of cases were of defamation and posts by making fake profiles or making vulgar comments on posts or through messages. The number of cases doubled from 791 in 2020, to 1,518 in 2021.

On other platforms including Twitter, the new section added for record was of posting vulgar comments on Zoom meetings and uploading of videos on social media sites other than Facebook and Instagram. The trend has seen a worrying rise among minor victims and adults equally. Children were exposed to added screentime owing to the online schooling necessitated by the lockdown, said officials.

While social media cases rose exponentially, the highest contributor of cybercrime complaints was online banking fraud. The cases of online banking fraud include bank cards, third party payment options, QR code scan, lottery fraud, job fraud, matrimonial fraud, loan fraud, and KYC update fraud. Among the cases of online banking fraud, the number of cases of misuse of bank cards was the highest contributor followed by job fraud, loan fraud, money transfer using third party methods. The new entrant in this list is Fastag cheating which took up pace when the central government made use of Fastag mandatory.

The police have managed to get a refund of the money lost in some of the cases. The total amount refunded in 2021 by the cybercrime cell, however, has seen a record low in the past four years. The cyber cell refunded 37,902,535 in 2021 compared to 96,090,893 in 2020, 113,935,459 in 2019, and 41,855,975 in 2018, according to police records.

“In 2020 as well as 2019, there was a major chunk of refund from cases like Cosmos bank fraud and Bitcoin case. That way, the recovery in multiple smaller cases is much more this year compared to earlier years,” said DCP Navatake.

In the final quarter 2021 year, the cybercrime cell has registered five major cases related to malpractices in exams including Teacher eligibility test (TET) 2018, TET 2020, health department recruitment exam Group D, Group C, and Maharashtra housing and area development authority (MHADA) recruitment exam.

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