Updated: August 6, 2021 11:06:34 am
The Cyber Crime Cell of Pune City Police has reported a steep rise in cheating cases in which people have been duped while trying to make online purchases of items ranging from alcohol to electronic items from fraudulent links. Police suspect the involvement of organised syndicates of cyber criminals, working in a systematic manner, behind this upsurge in cases.
Movement restrictions in the form of various stages of lockdown since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year has led to huge increase in online purchases, which has reflected in a hefty growth in the global volume of e-commerce.
Police officials say that this increase in online purchases, combined with people spending more and more time online, has resulted in a rise in the number of people falling prey to cyber criminals.
In 2019, the Cyber Crime Cell had registered 430 cases in which people had fallen prey to cyber fraudsters while trying to make online purchases. This number rose to 1,370 in 2020 and in 2021, till July 31, as many as 1,600 cases have been registered, nearly four times the entire caseload of 2019.
Senior Inspector D S Hake, of the Cyber Crime Cell, said, “One of the common modus operandi of the cyber criminals is posting fraudulent advertisements online for products that are very frequently searched by people for online purchases. These fraudsters set up temporary web posts, social media posts — many times resembling those of genuine business establishments. In many cases, phone numbers of businesses are swapped with the phone numbers of cyber criminals. After the persons interested in purchases call these numbers, payments are sought, for which fraudulent links sent set. Subsequently, people end up losing money — in most cases much more than the intended purchase. There has been a significant rise in cheating cases reported by people who tried to make online purchase of alcohol. These cases of cheating suddenly rise during periods when liquor shops are closed or even on dry days. Cyber criminals also cheat people after contact is made via genuine e-commerce platforms and direct payments are sought from the customer, and not through the secured payment portals of these websites.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber Crime and Economic Offences) Bhagyashree Navatake said, “There has been an exponential rise in the number of cases of cheating of people while they are trying to make online purchases. Based on the cases that we have cracked till now, we have reasons to believe that there are organised syndicates of cyber fraudsters who work in systematic manner to cheat a number of people at any given time. These gangs of criminals have separate teams, those which find potential targets, those engaging with targets on the phone or social media and seeking money transfers from them, those taking care of siphoning of the money and even those taking care of the money after it is transferred into their accounts.”
Police officials, however, say that its unfortunate that people continue to fall prey to such frauds in spite of awareness campaigns and media coverage of these cases. “Despite all the efforts towards creating awareness and media covering these cases very frequently, more and more people still fall prey to such frauds. People must take basic cyber safety precautions while making these purchases.”
Pune City police have recently started two dedicated helpline numbers for victims of financial cyber frauds to approach the police during the ‘Golden Hours’ after the crime has taken place. Following the call to the helpline, authorities can initiate immediate measures to freeze the fraudulent accounts and try to ensure that the money is not lost.
Speaking about the helplines, DCP Navatake said, “In many cases of cyber financial frauds, we have managed to make sure that money not lost. But we have to understand that these cyber criminals are also swift in their movement of money. So, it is important for people to approach us immediately after they have lost money. We are happy that this model of ‘golden hour’ helpline is now being replicated at various places across India.”
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