After his wife’s death, a retired government official found a connection when he met London-based consultant Clara on Facebook. However, the woman’s mother was diagnosed with an illness. The official transferred over Rs 2 lakh to her before he realised Clara never existed.
A 21-year-old advocate found her match on a matrimonial site, a Merchant Navy officer. He promised to marry her, before he was kidnapped by Somali pirates. She transferred around Rs 3 lakh for his rescue, only to later realise her intended was a Nigerian man facing multiple cases.
An Army Colonel got frantic messages from his batchmate, claiming he was stranded in Vrindavan, and transferred Rs 6,000 via Paytm. When a demand for more money was made the next day, he called up his batchmate to find he never went to Vrindavan.
Last week, former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha approached police, informing them that he was duped of Rs 1 lakh by a man who accessed his friend’s email account and sent him an email seeking money for medical treatment. It was later found the accused first studied the correspondence between Lodha and his friend before making the demand.
A familiar pattern of duping cases of late has put officers from the Cyber Crime unit of the Special Cell as well as the District Cyber Cells on high alert, with investigators saying “social engineering frauds” are becoming increasingly hard to tackle.
Police said a “social engineering fraud” involves “psychological manipulation” by the accused who, instead of relying on hacking, convinces a person to give away crucial information on his own. Officers said they get around 10 such cases every six months. While there are 14 District Cyber Cells to tackle such cases, some have just three-four officers against a sanctioned strength of 15 per cell.
Staff crunch and a lack of computer forensic equipment leads to investigators taking at least six months to crack some cases.
An investigator from the Southern District Cyber Cell range has been trying to piece together a series of fraudulent e-wallet transactions, which he believes will take at least three more months. “Earlier, such transactions could be traced to bank accounts. Now, fraudsters are using virtual bank accounts (offered by e-wallets) or using a fake Aadhaar card. They also manage to get a debit card on such virtual banking sites and can make bank-related transactions,” the officer said.
Police have traced most such frauds to Jharkhand and Mathura, and claim that in some villages, “training” is provided to fraudsters, where they are made to write scripts to dupe people by concocting stories to evoke sympathy.
Delhi Police and counterparts in other states have sent several recommendations to the Home Ministry in the last six months. These include linking e-wallets to mobile phones rather than relying on OTPs, and porting all government websites to the .gov domain.
“A majority of cyber crimes involve transfer of money through e-wallets. If we can get stakeholders to accept that e-wallets must be linked to a device’s IMEI number, the fraudster will need physical access to the device… this measure will help create an important security buffer,” DCP (Cyber Crime) Anyesh Roy said.