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Despite eight Cyber Crime, Economic Offenses and Narcotics (CEN) police stations, apart from the Cyber Crime Police Station under the Central Crime Branch in Bengaluru, investigations are severely hampered by lack of adequate personnel and funds, in addition to technical problems.
“Dear CUSTOMER, your electricity will be disconnected from the electricity office at 9.30pm tonight as your bill for the previous month has not been updated. Please contact our electricity officer immediately 9693325442 Thank you.” (sic)
This has become household news in Bengaluru over the past few months. Many trusting Bescom customers have fallen victim to phishing attacks. Wg. Cdr. Kurian Cherian (Retd) learned this the hard way after he lost money to such an attack despite not sharing the OTP with the caller. Another customer, Chowda Reddy, faced the wrath of a scammer for not falling prey — the scammer hacked into his phone and sent lewd messages to WhatsApp groups Mr. Reddy was a member of.
After the Bengaluru police registered hundreds of such cases, the city police and Bescom launched awareness campaigns. However, not a single case has been solved and detectives seem to be groping in the dark, at least for now.
The Bescom account fraud saga, just one of the hundreds of modus operandi used by fraudsters to dupe gullible citizens, seems to be a familiar story to victims of cybercrime in the state.
Only 10 convictions
In 2021, the state police closed investigations into 12,552 cases and the city police closed 11,383 cases, saying that although the incidents did occur, there was not enough evidence to prosecute anyone. Of the 6,841 cases that went to trial, only 10 convictions were in the state and one in the city. Most of them – 5,497 cases – were settled out of court because the victims weren’t keen or settled or didn’t show up.
“In many cases, the financial loss will be less than the cost of investigating them. Most fraudsters will be hiding in far northern states and sending teams to investigate such cases makes no sense. We are already in cash. In such cases, we have closed the investigation,” said a senior official.
Despite eight Cyber Crime, Economic Offenses and Narcotics (CEN) police stations, apart from the Cyber Crime Police Station under the Central Crime Branch in Bengaluru, which accounts for 80% of the cyber crimes reported in the state, investigations are severely hampered by lack of adequate staff and funds. except for technical problems.
The city police is now trying to implement structural changes in the fight against cybercrime. In November 2021, they launched a Cyber Incident Report (CIR) where victims of financial cyber crimes can report details and CIR staff will coordinate with banks to freeze transactions and target accounts.
Out of the cyber crimes that reported financial losses of over ₹ 50 crore so far, CIR has managed to freeze over ₹ 6 crore and refund over ₹ 80 crore to the victims. “While most nationalized banks cooperate with us, private banks still pose a challenge. None of the banks respond outside of working hours and this also delays the response. CIR is basically banking work that we do to help victims of financial cybercrime get some money wherever we can help. Banks need to cooperate more,” said a senior official overseeing the CIR.
Application for loans
The city police are now also moving towards investigations to nip it in the bud and attack organized cybercrime networks such as loan apps that have become a major threat. One in ten cases of cybercrime reported in the city relate to harassment by loan application managers.
Harassment is so bad that it has even led to suicides. A 52-year-old private bank employee, Nandakumar, killed himself last week in July in the city, leaving behind a death certificate alleging harassment by Chinese loan application executives who allegedly abused him and sent his morphed photos to people on his contact list. delay in repayment of loans. He asked the Karnataka and Maharashtra police to ban 46 loan applications, but to no avail.
The Enforcement Directorate recently raided several loan application firms and payment gateways across the country based on 18 FIRs registered by the city police. The agencies have frozen over ₹50 crore in various accounts, which will now be returned to the victims. Many of these apps have also been disabled. Agencies are now dealing with Google Play and a norm that allows only RBI-vetted financial services apps on the Play Store.
What needs to be fixed
However, many such regulatory loopholes persist, leaving citizens gullible to cybercrimes. “There are two pillars that need to be fixed. Until there is strict regulation regarding the issuance of SIM cards and the opening and handling of bank accounts, cybercrime cannot be regulated in the country,” said Raman Gupta, Joint Commissioner of Crime, Bengaluru.
The city police have now submitted several proposals to the Department of Telecom and the Reserve Bank of India to plug the gaps in the regulatory framework.
“For example, we find that KYC – which powers SIM cards and bank accounts – is often false in cybercrime cases. Once this happens, the probe reaches a dead end. That needs to be fixed. There must be regulations on how many bank accounts a person or business can own and operate, and jurisdictional logic must be applied to where you can open bank accounts. Banks should also monitor patterns of large transactions and instant withdrawals and transfers of money to various accounts. We also need to blacklist the accounts,” Mr. Gupta said.