Phones] A pan-India ‘fraud-to-phone’ network has been busted by security agencies, which have also arrested eight people and seized nearly 300 new mobile phones bought with stolen funds, officials said on Tuesday. Moreover, 900 mobile phones, 1,000 bank accounts and hundreds of unified payment interface (UPI) and e-commerce IDs of this gang have been identified and are under investigation.
Nearly 100 bank accounts, and debit and credit cards have been frozen by the security agencies so far, officials said. In all, eight ‘fraud-to-phone’ (F2P) gang masterminds, including four from Jharkhand, two each from Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, have been arrested and nearly 300 new mobile phones bought with stolen funds seized, a home ministry official said.
The operation against the gang has covered 18 states, involving 350 people. It was carried out by the Union home ministry’s cyber safety wing FCORD, the Madhya Pradesh Police and police forces of several other states on specific information.
An official said that a case of cyber fraud of Rs 6.5 lakh was reported on June 11 by a 78-year-old Udaipur resident on the CyberSafe app run by the home ministry. The F2P caller was operating from Jharkhand. During investigation, it came to light that funds were directly credited to three SBI cards, which were used to buy 33 China-made Xiaomi POCO M3 mobile phones from Flipkart.
Within minutes, the addresses of where these were delivered in Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh were identified, and the superintendent of police of Balaghat was informed. The Madhya Pradesh Police was most efficient in detaining the mastermind and all 33 new phones and several more were seized from him, another official said.
The Jharkhand Police has arrested the F2P caller. The F2P gang bought these phones for about Rs 10,000 each and sold them in the black market at five to 10 per cent discount.
The F2P gang had several hundred operatives who ran different legs of a transaction which involved OTP fraud, credit card fraud, e-commerce fraud, fake IDs, fake mobile numbers, fake addresses, black marketing, tax evasion, money laundering and habitually dealing in stolen goods. The accused are also being questioned about their preference for China-made phones, especially those made by Xiaomi.
The CyberSafe is an application created by FCORD, which is operational since August 2019. It links more than 3,000 Law Enforcement Authorities (LEAs), including police stations, in 19 states and union territories with 18 fintech entities online and in real-time. Fraudsters’ mobile numbers are the key to CyberSafe. As soon as a victim informs police, information is entered on CyberSafe and in real-time, fund flows are identified and communicated.
Till now 65,000 phone frauds have been reported on this app and 55,000 phone numbers and several thousand bank accounts of fraudsters identified. The CyberSafe runs a website ‘cybersafe.gov.in’, which provides access only to law enforcement authorities and fintech entities.