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Mumbai Sees 'Downward Trend' in Cybercrime but Lockdown-related Frauds New Menace

Representational image.

Representational image.

Victims are falling prey to Covid and lockdown specific online frauds and the cases are increasing during the pandemic.

Mumbai city has reported 777 cases of cybercrime in the first four months of 2021, a possible indicator that the graph of cybercrime is seeing a downward trend. Last year the city reported a total of 2,435 cases of cyber fraud.

However, what is on the rise is innovative Covid and lockdown specific online frauds added to the list of cybercrime. Criminals are using the pandemic to target victims grappling with the Covid crisis or lockdown like situation.

“We’ve seen since the last four-five years that increasing the number of cybercrimes are registered both in IT Act and IPC. This year you could say that maybe the number has declined but there is no specific reason. But we are seeing more lockdown specific online frauds are happening. You have cybercriminals promising certain online items or influencing customers to make certain online transactions but there is no delivery happening later. People realise later that they are being defrauded. There is another category where people are promising RT-PCR tests but they are not recognised by the ICMR. Some such cases happen online also, so certain types of cybercrime are specific to the lockdown,” said Mumbai Police PRO DCP Chaitanya.

Aziz (name changed) living in Mumbai works for a bank but was close to losing over Rs 8 lakh in online fraud. The fraudsters emptied all of his life saving including fixed deposits from his bank account. Luckily for him, the BKC cyber cell managed to block the payment. “This happened at a time when I was helping a close friend during the crisis, his daughter was admitted to a hospital and was serious, during this phase I get a message on phone about updating my bank KYC. A few days later I get a call to do the same, amidst all this I got to know my friend’s daughter passed away in the hospital, hassled as I rushed to the hospital. Concerned if the KYC issue could block my card in these distressing times, then how will I manage funds if required at the hospital. So I responded to the text and furnished my bank details for KYC. Minutes later I get a message of a massive transfer from my account. I realised this was a cyber fraud. But the cyber cell managed to block my account and after a few months I got that money back.”

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The cyber cell manages to solve 85 per cent of cyber fraud cases coming to them, but the city’s success rate of solving the cases on online fraud is still in the single digits.

Cyber expert Yasir Shaikh who works closely with Mumbai’s cyber cell reveals several factors that come into play to solve a case of online fraud. Many of the times victims don’t report the crime as it happens, many go to the police station to file a report thinking that way it will be solved rather than emailing the cyber cell department immediately with details. Once on email chances to get accounts blocked of perpetrators are higher. “These days UPI frauds have increased a lot, rather than asking for your CVV or OTP, criminals are attacking people with UPI frauds. So if you report the crime instantly police can block these accounts and there are high chances of getting your money back,” he said.

The more you delay, there is the likelihood of getting your money decreases. Many of these criminals have a similar way of operating. They don’t operate from nearby areas. They operate from remote locations. Otherwise, police have many ways to nab them in minutes. I’ve seen cases, where we go to SIM card holders involved in frauds and realise their details, have been misused by fraudsters to do the crime. These criminals play very safely, he explained.

Several fake advertisements are floating on social media that promise doorstep delivery of essential items, liquor, and in some cases essential Covid medicines like Remdesivir.

Some also promise RT-PCR test. Many are fake and nothing but strategies devised by cybercriminals to lure victims. Once in, one way or the other, they try to defraud you.

“We would like citizens to be careful while doing transaction online, the best weapon is to be aware of their tricks and to make purchases on well-known platforms or do it after doing due verifications. These criminals have a way of trapping these people,” said DCP Chaitanya.

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first published:June 24, 2021, 18:13 IST