The son of a BJP corporator was arrested in Bhayander last week for his alleged role in operating an online scam in which he and an accomplice allegedly duped American nationals by claiming that their computers were infected with a virus and asking them to pay in gift cards to solve the problem. Police are looking for the arrested person’s accomplice, who is believed to be the brains behind the operation, in Delhi. On August 17, Navghar police arrested Rishi Singh (26), the son of Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation corporator Madan Singh of the BJP.
Rishi, who works as a freelance Search Engine Optimiser for two firms based in Gurugram, is accused of converting American gift cards to Bitcoin and then converting those into Indian currency and transferring the money to the bank account of his accomplice.
Cybercrime and cybersecurity expert Ritesh Bhatia said it is popularly referred to as Tech Support Scam. According to the police, Rishi’s accomplice acquired customer data from several American nationals and made cold calls to them.
“Typically, the caller informs the receiver that his or her computer is infected by a virus and poses as a technician from an anti-virus company,” said Bhatia.
The caller then obtains details of the computer and using mirroring software, gains access to the computer and manages to infect the receiver’s computer system with a virus. “This is done so that when the receiver switches on the computer, it is found to be infected,” he added.
In order to clean up the system, Rishi’s accomplice would allegedly ask for payment in gift cards that could be redeemed online.
Atul Kulkarni, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Bhayander division, said the man then passed on the details of the gift cards to Rishi, who used a number of websites to convert the USD value of the cards to Bitcoins for a small deduction in value. “As there is no clear regulation in India on Bitcoins yet, the accused would need to convert the crypto currency into Rupees,” said Bhatia.
According to the police, the duo would communicate only through WhatsApp and Rishi would receive details of the gift cards via the application. Kulkarni added that Rishi was being paid a commission ranging between two and five per cent per transaction for transferring money to the bank account of his accomplice in Delhi.
Inspector Suresh Gengaje of Navghar police station said Rishi has claimed to have carried out only two transactions for his associate — one worth Rs 5,000 and the other worth Rs 15,000 — so far.
“Rishi had met the accused in Gurugram a year ago when he had been there to inquire with firms for work as an SEO,” said Gengaje.
Investigators are probing how the accused procured customer data of American nationals and how many people he might have duped till now.
“We know that the accused have been operating for a year. We are in the process of looking through Rishi’s bank transactions to understand how much money he has sent to his accomplice,” added Gengaje.