The Mumbai Police claimed to have busted a racket where unsuspecting customers received what appeared to be automated phone calls from banks, informing them that their debit card may soon be blocked. The police have arrested a 25-year-old man from West Bengal in connection with the case. Investigators said they were yet to ascertain the exact number of people cheated.
A complaint in this regard was filed by Manoj Solanki (27). “I was in office when I got a call from a man posing as a State Bank of India official. He said since the Goods and Services Tax has been regulated, my debit card would be blocked if I fail to follow the procedure. He had asked for my card number, following which an OTP was generated on my phone number, which I forwarded to him. Later, Rs 47,600 was debited from my account.”
Police said several similar cases had been registered since then, following which a Special Investigating Team was formed. The SIM card used to make the calls was registered under the name of one Koustav Dey, a native of Asansol in West Bengal, an officer said.
“Dey said two men who had a workshop were selling SIM cards in Asansol. He had bought one for himself, for which he submitted his original documents. Later, it was revealed that the gang had been misusing his documents, as they had seven different SIM cards registered with Dey’s documents. Similarly, the gang had been using the documents of other villagers, too, who had bought SIM cards from the shop,” said an officer.
“While selling SIM cards in Asansol, one of the gang members accidentally gave his original number to a buyer. We laid a trap outside the residence of the accused, identified as Gurmeet Kanta Singh, at Kulti in West Bengal. However, he escaped,” he added.
“Later, we went to the Canara Bank’s Branch at Mihijam in Jharkhand, from where the money was debited. We took the details of the account holder who was an adivasi and interrogated her,” an investigator said.
The investigation team was informed that a workshop had been set up in the village, where a group, claiming to be NGO officials, told people that Canara Bank accountholders would get Rs 1,000 each under the Prime Minister Ladli Yojana.
“About ten women from the village had opened an account through them. But the customers were not returned their debit cards or passbooks. The group had claimed that the documents and the card would be handed over once the government credits Rs 1,000 in their accounts,” an officer said.
Incidentally, one of the villagers had been earlier summoned by the Antop Hill police for questioning after a similar cheating case was registered, in which her account was used to deposit money. She had filed an FIR in this regard at the local police station.
The police team froze the accounts of the villagers after they found Rs 20 lakh in them. “In many cases, the gang also used a Paytm accounts to transfer the money. We traced the phone number of such an account holder, checked his call data records, which took us to Durgapur,” the officer added.
The accused, identified as Vikashkumar Das, was nabbed from his residence. Police said the accused has been working with his two uncles, identified as Subaldas and Ranjitdas, and his friends — Gurmeet Kanta Singh, Subhashdas and Laxman Sharma.
“Das had used the same SIM card to call his other gang members who lived in the neighbourhood. We could have arrested the entire gang but others fled the spot after we got hold of Das,” said an officer.
The accused has been booked under sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 419 (punishment for cheating by personation) of the Indian Penal Code along with sections 66 (C) and (D) of the Information Technology Act. Das was produced in a local court and has been remanded in police custody.