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‘Fake sites, brand names to lure people’ — how e-commerce ‘fraud’ busted by Delhi Police worked

Delhi Police’s cyber cell arrested 2 'key suspects' in 'Rs 60 lakh scam' that had customers buy items that were never delivered. HC hearing pleas of multiple brands against such fraud.

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New Delhi: The Delhi Police’s cyber cell claims to have busted a “pan-India” e-commerce fraud that involved luring people to fake websites using names of known brands and making them pay for goods that were never delivered. 

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) K.P.S. Malhotra, who heads the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit — a special cell of the Delhi Police’s cybercrime unit that handles complex cyber crimes — told mediapersons Tuesday that two people were arrested in connection with the Rs 60 lakh scam after raids in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. 

The accused — Ravi Arora (31) and Dinesh Sharma (39), both Delhi residents — were key suspects in the case, the DCP said, adding that they developed websites to mirror those of large brands to draw people in.

“They created websites i.e. aggarwalandsons.co.in, hindsolution.in, bansaltraders.com and sunsolar.com and other such to cheat gullible clients,” a press release quoted the DCP as saying. The suspects also allegedly manipulated SEO algorithms to ensure that their fake websites would show up on top of web searches. 

“Customers would visit their websites and find the prices of household articles/electricals shown cheaper than (on) the other renowned e-commerce websites. Customers would get attracted towards them and pay the prices but the articles were never delivered to them despite making payment,” said Malhotra. 

Police impounded 13 mobile phones, three laptops, and 10 debit cards in the bust. They also froze bank accounts that were used to park the cash collected via the scam, according to the DCP. 

The alleged fraud, which came to light when a customer filed a police complaint, comes at a time when the Delhi High Court is hearing petitions by several top brands over similar frauds. Himalaya, Microsoft, Godrej Properties, Mother Dairy, Amazon, and Bajaj Finance among others have sought injunctions and legal action against such online fraud. 


Also Read: Loans, servers in China, threats: How a network of extortionists scammed thousands out of crores


The investigation 

According to the press release, the alleged fraud was discovered when a duped customer filed a complaint that an air-conditioner he’d ordered on aggarwalandsons.co.in for over Rs 28,000, never got delivered. He placed the order on the website, which he assumed belonged to ‘Aggarwal & Sons’, a well-known Delhi-based company.   

When the product didn’t reach him, he attempted to call a number listed on the website, which he found to be switched off. 

According to DCP Malhotra, investigators who took up the case found 28 complaints against the same website on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal — a government portal where cyber crimes can be reported.   

The money trail led the police to Arora and Sharma. So far, 10 cases have been registered in connection with the fraud, said the police’s press release.

While the police maintain officially that investigators found 28 such complaints, a senior police officer who didn’t want to be named told ThePrint that the number was closer to 160, out of which 70 were from Delhi alone.

“It’s been 2-3 days since the arrests were made,” the officer said. “We’re on the lookout for one or two others who are friends of the suspects.”

Why brands are worried

On 3 August, the Delhi High Court, which had clubbed 28 petitions filed by various brands over e-commerce fraud, asked the Delhi Police’s IFSO to investigate the allegations. 

The court had also ordered the National Payments Corporation of India, the Department of Telecommunications, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team to hold meetings with IFSO for better coordination in such cases. 

The court will hear the case next on 30 August. 

This is an updated version of this story

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)


 Also Read: Secret NSE phone-tap or ‘financial fraud’? Inside story of ED case that’s snared ex-IPS officer


 

 

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