Police launches helpline to curb online fraud

Bengaluru: After the success of a pilot project, the Bengaluru police have launched a helpline, the Cybercrime Incident Report (CIR) system, to address online fraud complaints
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Updated on Apr 17, 2021 12:47 AM IST
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ByArun Dev

Bengaluru: After the success of a pilot project, the Bengaluru police have launched a helpline, the Cybercrime Incident Report (CIR) system, to address online fraud complaints. Bengaluru Police commissioner Kamal Pant explained that as per the new initiative, launched in the first week of April, any victim of online financial fraud can lodge a complaint by calling a police helpline number. “Based on the information provided by complainants, the police will work with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and freeze the account to which the money has been transferred,” he said.

According to National Crime Records Bureau data, in 2019, Bengaluru recorded the highest number of cybercrimes among all metro cities in India with 10,668 cases. The city closest to Bengaluru was Mumbai, which reported 1,482 cybercrimes that year.

Among the cybercrimes in the city, phishing, smishing and vishing have been a big concern for both citizens and the police. According to experts, phishing is a type of financial fraud where criminals defraud, dupe or mislead people through email. The number of phishing emails have risen in the past few years and have got a lot more sophisticated, experts said. ‘Vishing’ is over-the-phone phishing, where scammers try to persuade people to share information by posing as bank staff or other financial service employees. ‘Smishing’ is SMS phishing where text messages are sent trying to encourage people to pay money out or click on suspicious links.

In the current system, if a person loses their money in an online fraud or phishing, they have to approach a police station or one of the dedicated cybercrime police stations in the city. This is a time-consuming process and any delay in such cases could make the recovery of the money difficult, experts added.

A pilot project was launched in the last week of December 2020, which was deemed success by the Bengaluru police, which received around 20 calls per day. “Our aim is to make the process of lodging a complaint people friendly. Such system is being introduced for the time in the country,” said the police commissioner.

Explaining how the new system works, deputy commissioner of police, command centre, Isha Pant said a victim of online financial fraud has to call 112 and raise a complaint, giving available details. “This is registered as a Cybercrime Incident Report (CIR). This is not a First Information Report (FIR) but a CIR. The details are then given to cybercrime investigators, a team dedicated to this process, operating out of the police command centre. They network with banks and RBI and freeze accounts following an investigation,” she said. She added that the cybercrime investigators have received training in handling such cases and they would make use of the mobile number from which the victim got a call or the details of the bank to which to money was transferred.

“RBI already has a Standard Operating Procedure for such frauds or the project. As per that, it is very important that the complaint is lodged within 2 hours of the fraud. RBI calls this the golden hour because it is the time available before this money is transferred or withdrawn,” the officer added.

A CIR is not an official complaint. In case the money is retrieved by the police, in order to get it back, the victim should lodge an FIR. “The FIR is an official complaint. CIR is part of the process to fast track the investigation. Once the money is retrieved, it can be given to the victim through a court order,” Pant added.

So far, Bengaluru Police have five dedicated lines for cybercrimes and 20 cybercrime investigators working in three shifts, which is expected to be expanded over the coming months, said an officer.

In 2019, Bengaluru recorded the maximum 10,668 cybercrime cases, followed by Mumbai with 1,482, Lucknow (962), Hyderabad (428) and Jaipur (415). In Bengaluru, the number of cases showed a 91.51% increase in a year from 2,743 in 2017 to 5,253 in 2018, as per NCRB data.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021