Rise of the modern fraudster

Last Updated : 16 August 2014, 20:58 IST
Last Updated : 16 August 2014, 20:58 IST

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Plastic money is usually considered safe but over 100 debit card holders of State Bank of India got a rude shock in June: altogether Rs 1.26 crore had been deducted from their bank accounts in transactions claimed to have been made in Canada.

They received the usual SMS alerts from the bank about the transactions. But they had never visited Canada. It turned out that they were targeted by fraudsters.

The bank later found out that the debit cards were of the same series, issued in arrangement with MasterCard – hinting that the data was stolen from the bank or from MasterCard and later cloned. As a measure of caution, the bank had to stop international operation of that series of debit cards.

This was not a rare case of cheating, but one of thousands investigated by police in the capital over the the past five years.

“Investigations have also revealed that more and more fraudsters are now making use of the latest technology along with phone calls, text messages and emails in their innovative methods to dupe gullible victims,” says Joint Commissioner of Police (Economic Offences Wing) Satish Golcha.

White-collar crimes range from banking frauds and cyber crimes to violation of Intellectual Property Rights and Copyrights and Trademark Act.

Police have also investigated offences related to multi-level marketing frauds, stock/share market frauds, multi-victim frauds and land and building rackets.

White-collar criminals are becoming more ambitious, it seems. They are gradually shifting towards large-scale frauds. S D Mishra, Deputy Commissioner of Police (EOW), says police are now keeping such cases in focus, initiating swift investiagations to nab frauds who attempt to cheat people at large, affecting the national economy.

More cases

Police data reveals a gradual increase in cases of cheating, forgery and criminal breach of trust in the last five years. In the first three months of the year, 1,086 cases of cheating were registered in which 187 people were arrested.

In the same period, 66 cases of forgery were reported in which 36 accused were arrested. Last year, 2,899 cheating cases were reported, compared to 2,055 in 2012, 1,990 in 2011 and 1,845 in 2010.

A majority of these cases were registered under the Information Technology Act, which included cheating after hacking as one of the widespread menace. In June, an email ID of Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary with Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, was hacked when he was on an official visit to the US. Several emails were then sent by the hackers from his account, purportedly seeking financial help for the treatment of his sister in the UK.

Before Kumar noticed the hacking, a former subordinate officer responded and transferred Rs 1.38 lakh to two bank accounts. Kumar took immedaite steps to stop further misuse of his mail account and cautioned relatives and friends against responding to the fake emails.
He also contacted Microsoft for retrieving the account. To curb such incidents, police have asked banks and telecom companies to send awareness text messages and emails to their customers.

“People are now regularly informed that banks do not seek information through phone calls, text messages or emails. We only fill forms at the bank for personal information which is a process called Know Your Customer to verify the identity of the clients. Any data sought from a person otherwise is likely to be by an unauthorised person looking to cheat,” says Vikas Sharma, who works with FortunePR which handles HDFC Bank.

A police officer, tasked to probe such cases, highlights that during investigations it was noticed that in many cases the victims were contacted with the help of forged IPs and phone numbers which investigators could not trace.

Police say an increasing number of people arrested in such cases are educated, from relatively well-to-do families, and are entering the world of crime to earn quick money – or just for some fun.

In July, the son of a retired Colonel in the Indian Army was arrested for claiming to be a Major in the Indian Army to dupe people on matrimonial websites. In one case, he took Rs 6 lakh on the pretext of helping the victim buy a car from the  Army canteen at 50 percent discount.

“Kislay Thakur used to work with private companies and was not satisfied with his earnings due to which he decided to dupe people by posing as an Army officer. He posed as Bangalore-resident Major Ashiq Bashir and claimed to be posted with the Military Intelligence Unit in Leh,” said Ranvir Singh, Additional Commissioner of Police (West).

Gadget gurus

High-end gadgets and fake IDs are also being used regularly to cheat people and later evade police.  Fraudsters Ulhas Prabhakar Khaire and Raksha Urs – arrested for the Rs 1,100-crore Stock Guru scam – had acquired a mobile jammer to keep a tab on targets and employees.
Besides, they had a clock with a hidden video recorder, a wrist watch-cum-recorder and a digital video recorder.

The husband-wife pair also got Aadhaar identity cards made under false names. They owned 18 PAN cards, 75 ATM cards and 131 cheque books apart from a currency counting machine.
With the black money, they managed to set up two media institutes and two financial security firms in Maharashtra, but without permits.

They had also finalised the script and director for a Marathi film which they intended to produce and had advertised for trainee actors.

Steps are now being taken to equip police with advanced gadgetry so that they can meet the challenge.

A cyber lab was inaugurated at Police Training College in Jharoda Kalan for state-of-the-art training of officers.

It was set up by pooling training resources from EOW and Special Cell, as well as other private and public organisations.

“Cyber crime is a jurisdiction-less and border-less crime, and therefore difficult to track down without related expertise. We feel there is a need for periodical training programmes for officers in the areas of cyber crime investigation, computer forensics and mobile phone security issues,” says Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat.

At the same time, action is being taken against organised gangs, such as land mafia, piracy, admission rackets, loan rackets, human trafficking and fake job rackets.

A big drive was launched against land grabbers whose modus operandi was to identify unattended property and grab it by preparing forged papers. A habitual cheat, Amarjeet Singh was arrested.

He would choose senior citizens’ property at a prime location and grab it after preparing forged documents.Over 10 cases were registered against him all over the capital, five of them with the EOW police station.

Police are now putting out newspapers advertisements for awareness to prevent such crimes. Data on economic offenders is also being uploaded on the Delhi Police website.

They are also tying up with other enforcement agencies like Financial Intelligence Unit, Regional Economic Intelligence Committee, Directorate of Enforcement, Reserve Bank of India and Income Tax department.

In 2013, EOW registered 250 cases and arrested 263 economic offenders, including 16 proclaimed offenders. As the nodal unit for all cyber crime-related matters, EOW also provided technical assistance in 315 cases of cyber related-offences to local police.

Published 16 August 2014, 20:58 IST

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