Impersonators use smart methods

They dress up as top officials or investigators, gain the confidence of their victims, and then blackmail them

Twenty-six-year old Mohammed Salman wore a blazer and travelled in a big car. Posing as an IAS officer, he would threaten government officials and conduct ‘raids’. 

The Shivamogga native was eventually caught on November 16. He is now cooling his heels in jail. He is just one of a host of criminals who pose as officials and middlemen and cheat people.

Officials of the Central Crime Branch (CCB), Bengaluru police, say about 20 per cent of the about 10,000 cases registered annually are related to impersonation.

How do impersonators work?

They dress up for the role, and gain the confidence of their victims. They then use confidential information to blackmail and extort money.“These frauds never make uncalculated moves,” Kuldeep Kumar R Jain, DCP (crime) told Metrolife.

Social media angle

Once the impersonators zero in on a victim, they study social media profiles and watch their potential victims’ banking habits. They also gather details about assets and properties, some of which may be acquired by illegal means. They calculate how much income tax their victims are paying, and whether they are evading tax. 

The victims are usually between 40 and 50 years and the frauds in their 30s. “People in the former age bracket are financially well-settled. The frauds start blackmailing them with all the confidential information they have shared. This is when the victim is forced to part with large sums of money to ensure his safety. This is also why most victims don’t complain,” says Jain.

The maximum number of cases of impersonation are in the job offer category. This is followed by education and bank-related fraud.

Jain, who handles cases related to cyber crimes, says, “The victim is usually asked to transfer a certain sum in return for a plush job with a fancy salary in a posh company. The victim realises that he or she has been cheated when they don’t get a response from the company.” 

Seat scandals

When it comes to the education sector, victims are usually promised a seat in a medical or engineering college. Criminals impersonate college officials, or claim to be brokers with a direct connection with the top management. “The minimum amount asked by the frauds in this category is Rs 25 lakh. The amount runs into crores in some cases,” says Jain. 

Victims of bank scams are persuaded to part with their OTPs and their date of birth, and told their account would be deleted otherwise. “These are fake messages and people have to be cautious,” warns Jain. In some cases, photos are morphed and merged, creating the impression that a woman is in a compromising position with someone. 

More cyber crime police stations in the offing      

The city will soon have eight cyber crime police stations.”Right now we are overloaded with cases and grappling with a staff shortage. More stations will help distribute the workload. This will help in the speedy disposal of cases,” says DCP Jain.    

Police advice to counter online impersonators

Do not encourage or respond to unknown SMSes, WhatsApp messages or calls. Avoid clicking on links shared by strangers. They could contain malware. 

Format your phone or laptop once or twice a month. This helps erase software or apps installed in the background. It will help you start afresh.

Turn off your Internet data when not in use. This could be used by frauds to snoop into your phone.

While online transactions have made banking easier, retaining the same password for many sites makes it easy for hackers to crack. It is advisable to keep changing the password. 

Most recent cases of impersonation 

September 25: KV Udit Surya, the first-year MBBS student who was booked for criminal conspiracy and cheating for gaining MBBS admission without appearing for NEET. Surya had failed in the first two attempts at NEET but cleared the third attempt after an impersonator wrote the exam. 

November 14: Impersonators forged land records and identity cards. Police seized two fake seals, land records and Aadhaar cards.  

November 22:  Abhilash, 34, was arrested for posing as a CBI officer. He would extort money from people. Police seized Rs 24 lakh from him. 

Impersonators galore in these categories 

  • IAS and IPS officers 
  • CBI and tax officers
  • Officials claiming to help sell disputed land 
  • Officials offering bank loans
  • Men who use social media to blackmail for women for money and sex.
  • Brides who blackmail for money, and sometimes honeytrap victims.  
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