New Delhi: A 10-day operation spread across 22 cities Thursday culminated in the arrest of 65 fraudsters, who were part of a syndicate behind the ‘BSES scam’. The operation was conducted by Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police.
Officers familiar with the arrests explained how members of the racket preyed on vulnerable targets using technology and by creating a sense of confusion and urgency.
For instance, a target would receive a message saying: “Dear customer, your power will be disconnected tonight at 9:30 pm from the electricity office because your previous month’s bill was not updated. Please immediately contact our electricity officer 6*********. Thank you.”
The alarmed target would assume that the message is legitimate and call the given number to resolve the issue. Members of the syndicate would then impersonate officers of the electricity board and either seek the target’s bank account details or get the target to install a remote access software on his/her phone.
Once they had access to the target’s bank account or cell phone, the fraudsters would transfer large sums of the target’s money to dummy accounts.
In order to bust this syndicate of fraudsters, the IFSO carried out raids across cities in Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Jharkhand, Bihar and Delhi-NCR.
Sources said it was the Jamtara, Jharkhand, based kingpins of the racket — among those arrested — who oversaw the dispatch of messages in bulk to possible targets and impersonated officials.
According to sources in the Delhi Police, the syndicate began operations around six months ago and has since duped innocent victims to the tune of over Rs 1 crore.
Over 200 such complaints of the BSES scam were reported on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCRP) and more than 500 such instances of cheating were brought to the attention of the police, said Delhi Police. They added that over 1,000 similar complaints had been made across the country over the past six months.
How the racket worked
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), IFSO, K.P.S. Malhotra told ThePrint that the syndicate had four distinct modules — “SIM card sellers/providers, dummy account providers, tele-callers, and e-Mitra”.
The e-Mitra is an initiative of the Rajasthan government to help citizens access business-to-consumer services. Associates for this initiative are third party employees.
DCP Malhotra further explained how members of the syndicate relied on two methods to dupe people.
“One is by sending account details to victims and making them transfer money to fraud accounts, or by asking victims for his/her bank account details after which they seek OTP to update electricity bills. The other way is to install a remote access software app in the victim’s phone after which they have access to all their data and [can] initiate transactions,” he said.
According to the police, those involved in the SIM card module provided SIM cards — procured using fake documents — for bulk messaging. Some were even asked to submit their documents in exchange for money.
Telecom company agents are among the 65 arrested, said one source, adding that the Delhi police have “written to the Department of Telecommunication” in this regard.
Speaking about the second module, officials said dummy bank accounts were either opened by the accused themselves using fake documents or opened in the name of others who were in need of money. Sources said as many as 100 bank accounts linked to the syndicate have been frozen.
DCP Malhotra also revealed how e-Mitra associates were roped in for withdrawal and circulation of the proceeds of the crime.
“They [e-Mitra associates] procured credit cards on fake documents and repaid the credit card bills through the cheated money [sic]. Further, the e-Mitra associates would swipe the credit cards at petrol pumps or other shops to redeem cash from the same,” he said, adding that further investigation is underway.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)