Local police say that over the past three months, about 100 youngsters have been picked up for voice phishing in one of Jharkhand’s most backward districts.
According to IG (Organised Crime) Sampat Meena, police teams from Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Bengaluru have either reached or requested information on rampant fraudulent activity originating out of Jamtara district.
IG Meena said that the Action Taken Report that has reached her office in Ranchi mentions 26 arrests. Jamtara is located in the Santhal Pargana division and is about 250 km from Ranchi.
Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Singh described the criminal landscape. “The hotspots are Narayanpur and Karmatand localities. There are about 15 villages from where these boys hail and there are 10, 15, 20 boys in each village doing this kind of work,” he said. He said that most of the accused are poorly-educated youngsters with minimal technical know-how. “It is like when someone in the village starts reaping the rewards of a cash crop. Everyone follows blindly,” said the SP.
For the same reasons, the police suspect there may be no organised nature and kingpin to these crimes. “However, the villagers endorse such activity. We have faced resistance while attempting arrests, so we now move in smaller squads to avoid detection,” he said.
IG Meena said the CID and district police are still studying the modus operandi of the accused. This is also because of the absence of FIRs filed in Jamtara. “These are the phishing (sic.) tricks you hear about often these days: callers telling you that you have won a prize, that your ATM card has been blocked, etc and then demanding your card numbers,” said the SP. They then use the data extracted to make one-time-purchases or withdrawals online.
Case detection picked up pace since Singh, a 2005-batch officer, was appointed on August 10 this year. “Local journalists told me that the name of the district was being dragged through the mud because of these youngsters. It was an open secret that Jamtara was the centre of these activities. It was like a red light area,” he said.
Singh was tutored by the technical personnel who operate out of the CID office. IG Meena said a Tech-Cell has since been established at Jamtara to detect more cases and understand M.O. “We collect phone numbers from where such calls are made and then try to go back to the name under which they were registered. The database has 250-300 numbers now,” she said. Jamtara police have been requesting victims to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Police are yet to ascertain how much these scams add up to. “They were almost always one-time transactions, so we are probably talking in terms of lakhs of money,” said the SP, adding that the youngsters arrested are from economically backward families. “About 10-15 years back, there was another crime epidemic here, when youngsters would travel in trains and poison passengers before looting them. They have merely adapted now,” he said.
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