New Delhi: Complaints related to cyber frauds rose by almost 190 per cent in Delhi during the nationwide lockdown that was imposed in March 2020, the Delhi Police has revealed.
According to data released by the police, around 1,550 complaints of cyber fraud were reported in Delhi in March, followed by 2,500 complaints in April and 4,500 in May. These came down to 3,000 in June but increased again to 4,000 in July.
Of these, 62 per cent complaints were related to online financial fraud, 24 per cent were related to social media and the remaining included cases of extortion, hate speech, spreading hatred against a community or religion and others.
Furthermore, fraud cases related to online marketplace OLX, KYC (Know Your Customer) verification and fake Facebook profiles also saw a steep rise.
In March, Delhi Police registered 50 complaints involving fraud on OLX, which rose to 150 in July.
There was also a rise in cases — from 170 in March to 450 in July — of people allegedly duped by fraudulent telecom officials who withdrew money from complainants’ bank accounts on the pretext of KYC verification.
People were also defrauded over Facebook with 100 such cases registered in March, which increased to 250 in July.
“These complaints rose during the lockdown as everyone was homebound. Many people were working from home. Since no other modes of shopping were available, people went on OLX and cyber criminals latched onto this opportunity,” Neeraj Thakur, Joint CP, Special Cell, told ThePrint.
He added: “Many people started using these mobile applications for a lot of things including ordering food and groceries and other things, which also led to an increase in payment wallet frauds.”
All these complaints only came down in September, according to the police.
“These figures saw a decline in September as many arrests were made and many rackets busted,” said Thakur.
Many fake government websites came up in 2020
According to Delhi Police, many fake government websites offering financial assistance and subsidies, fake websites offering government jobs, phishing links in the name of schemes, also came up to defraud the public.
These jobs included frontline workers like nurses, volunteers at hospitals, PPE manufacturing units among others.
“Many people lost their jobs during Covid and these cyber fraudsters took advantage of that. They created these fake websites and started offering them government jobs—like that of nurses, volunteers, units making PPE kits for hospitals. They would ask people to pay registration fees, then some other amount to get the job. Many people also fell for it,” said Thakur.
The police registered eight such cases and 24 people were arrested, who cheated over 1,49,280 people.
Apart from these, frauds related to customer care online search manipulation, extortion using edited porn videos also came to fore.
The Delhi Police also shared data on mega frauds, involving a large number of victims, in 2020. A total of 66 cases were filed by the police, which then arrested 215 people accused of victimising 1,65,265 people.
Two cases involved the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, a wing under the Ministry of Commerce that digitally files import and export trade. Eight people, who were eventually arrested by the police, hacked the authority’s key and 107 export firms were affected as a result.
Two people were also arrested for creating fake websites of the public charitable trust PM CARES, which allegedly targeted millions.
Furthermore, 43 cases were registered in connection with fraud involving goods and services listing applications in which 1,200 people were affected. Over 41 people were arrested in these cases, the police said.
Frauds happening from Mewat, Rajasthan, NCR
The data released by the Delhi Police also provided details about where these fraud cases originated from.
Frauds involving QR code-based payment manipulation or those on OLX, Just Dial and Facebook were traced to Mewat in Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, frauds involving UPI hacking, KYC verification for SIM upgradation were being carried out primarily from Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and the Tri-Junction (Chota Nagpur-Santhal Pargana region).
“Frauds involving call centres offering various jobs, loans and insurance frauds were being controlled from NCR region and SOS frauds by creating fake social media profiles were being done from NCR region,” a senior police officer, who wished to remain unnamed, said.
“Moreover, all the tech support and illegal call centres were being run from Salt Lake (Kolkata), Navi Mumbai, Jaipur, Noida, West Delhi, Mohali, Panchkula,” he added.
According to the police, a technology cell has been created to identify tools that need to be inducted in police investigations to increase efficiency.
In this cell, 66 legal consultants have been appointed while the appointment of 119 forensics experts, 914 data entry operators is under process.