Cybercrime in India has been identified as the most common kind of financial fraud. The victim often remains clueless until it’s too late

Imagine waking up one morning to find that your bank balance is several thousand rupees short. Or that you are in massive debt with the bank. Well, this is exactly how it happened earlier this year in August, when a 27-year-old in Lakshmi Nagar found that transactions worth Rs 20 crore were made in his name. His PAN card details had been stolen and duplicated, and the perpetrator had proceeded to carry out absurd and expensive online activities under his name.

The past year has seen a vast number of people finding themselves the victims of data and financial fraud. Between 2014 and 2016 alone, India saw 33,401 cyber security attacks (as per the NCRB reports). However, PTI reported a far larger number of 1,44,496. The difference perhaps lies in the number of cases reported to the Ministry of Home Affairs, and those that resulted in police cases. And since then, the Delhi police have also become more vigilant with regard to the various facets of cybercrime. Consequently, Delhi became the coordination point to fight cybercrime. Similar cells and training programs were set up in all states to further educate police officials in the cybercrime wing.

Manju Gupta, early last year got a message from the bank asking for her Aadhaar details. Unsuspecting of any foul play, she divulged the needful information. Soon after, she discovered that Rs 20,000 was missing from her bank account. “I was completely shocked and felt quite helpless. I am not savvy with the internet nor am I used to being robbed in this way. Nobody broke into my house or pickpocketed me or anything. I was totally unaware until I got a call from the bank. This is all very new,” she frets.

On taking this up with the bank authorities she found that the message was never sent from the bank in the first place. She had been duped. As a senior citizen belonging to a very middle class family, the money stolen made a dent in her savings, and was a blow to her self-respect.

The Delhi Police have identified various ways in which people can be cheated and fooled on the internet, and how many different ways data and financial theft can actually be carried out. These different threats are detailed on their website, as well as ways to avoid the same.

In October, Delhi Commissioner of Police Amulya Patnaik, handed out booklets to Delhi University students following a sensitisation programme conducted by Delhi Police. This was organised after surveys and data indicated that young adults and teenagers are most vulnerable to financial fraud during the festive season. WhatsApp and Facebook forwards containing links to festive offers are littered all over social media, which when clicked on, require users to divulge their bank details.

Anyesh Roy, DCP of the cyber cell has gone on record saying that websites offering free services generally contain malware to extract personal information — and the largest number of victims belong to the younger age demographic.

More and more sinister and underhand methods of conducting financial fraud are being slowly uncovered by the Delhi Police. Recently they found that even people’s contact information can be used to steal money and conduct fraudulent transactions under false identities.

According to DCP Madhur Verma’s statement, a white collar gang in Jharkhand was procuring customer data from sellers and hackers (which is quite easily available considering all the websites we list said information on — considering you know where to look), then they simply walk into a bank and request a change in a particular user’s phone number. They use the new OTP (One Time Password) issued to move money from these bank accounts.

Such cases, where OTPs are issued without verification of the phone number, suggests that some bank officials were also in cahoots with this group.

Verma was quoted in a news report, saying, “On September 17, Rajender Singh of Janakpuri complained about crooks stealing Rs 11.5 lakh from his current account.” Singh held an account in a branch of the Central Bank of India. Other banks targeted by this group were Syndicate Bank and Bank of Baroda.

Early in 2018, the government of India issued an 8-pointer list of guidelines to help states set up the required apparatus to track down and deal with cybercrimes such as these. These guidelines are to help the cyber cells deal with a number of cyber security threats, the most common of them being financial fraud.

Within the past year, the news has been littered with complaints to the cyber cell from people who have been cheated out of their money via online avenues. Private information has a market now, and can be sold and bought from hackers turned sellers. Since the spike in online financial fraud, the Delhi Police cyber cell have made public different suggestion for the common man to also be vigilant of his or her online activities.

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