The Mumbai police are struggling to tackle the rising number of vishing cases in the city. Vishing is the practice of using the telephone to scam the user into surrendering private information, used for identity theft. While the number of complaints is rising by the day, few arrests have been made. According to police, as most calls are made from other states, a new strategy is needed to control the crimes.
According to police records, a total of 254 ‘cheating card fraud/cheating’ cases were registered from January 1, 2017 to June 4, 2017. Police say a majority of these are vishing cases, while card cloning accounts for a relatively minor percentage. In all the cases, only 26 people have been arrested so far.
During the same period in 2016, 204 such cases were registered, in which 24 people were arrested. While at least one such case is registered every day in Mumbai, officers from several police stations say that the actual number of such cases is much higher. An officer from Powai police said, “We get over 10-15 people daily who have been duped by callers. There must be many more who do not bother approaching us since the amount swindled is not that big,” said a sub-inspector.
An officer from the cyber police station said, “In most cases, the amount victims lose is in the range of Rs 10,000-50,000. Since the amount is not that big, some complainants do not approach the police. This works in favour of the criminals.”
A senior crime branch officer explained that the criminals, after taking debit card details from gullible victims on the phone under varied pretexts, order something online. “Even as they are talking to the victim, they are sitting in front of a computer and using the details to make online orders. Earlier, they would order things at their own address, following which some were arrested. Now they give other addresses, or call up the delivery guy at the last moment and ask them to deliver the parcel at a different place,” said the IPS officer.
There are several hubs, like Jamtara district in Jharkhand and Noida in Uttar Pradesh, from where these calls are made.
This, several policemen say, becomes a big problem for them. “At times I receive a complaint that a person has lost Rs 15,000 and the call is traced to Uttar Pradesh. It does not make economic sense to go to that state for one case alone. We wait for more cases before a team goes there,” said an officer from Goregaon police station. However, such delays mean that these bogus callers keep operating without any hassle. Also, since a lot of policemen know that these cases could remain unsolved, they are hesitant to register FIRs, an officer said. A civil services aspirant who was duped in August last year had to wait at least nine months and make several rounds of the Powai police station to get an FIR registered. “Even when they registered an FIR, they told me that the case was not going to be solved,” said Aamir Shaikh, who was duped of Rs 19,000.
A senior IPS officer said, “We understand there is a problem that cannot be dealt with by traditional policing methods. We will have to conduct joint operations with police from the states where these call centres operate from.” The officer added, “There are some steps lined up that I do not want to talk about at this stage. We also plan to create awareness on social media about the crimes so that people do not fall prey to such fraud.”