Kiran Saxena (74), a retired Delhi Electricity Department employee, had the shock of her life on August 24, after ??6.20 lakh were taken from his account within 45 minutes of dialing a customer service number available on the Internet to inquire about certain income tax forms.
Likewise, a doctor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) lost ??4.90 lakh to cybercriminals in June, after clicking the link in a text message he received on his phone, stating that his online banking app was blocked.
Although Saxena and the AIIMS doctor, who asked not to be named, have been scammed in different ways and probably by different cyber gangs, what is common between them is that they all have the both received some of their stolen money credited to their accounts within hours of the report. crime at Delhi Police Cybercrime Hotline ‘155260’. While Saxena came back ??2.25 lakh, ??3.15 lakh were transferred to the doctor’s account.
HT spoke to numerous officers in the Cybercrime Unit, who confirmed that out of 100 people duped online, only around 10 get their money back. But even that 10% of victims were able to get their money back only after the “155620” national helpline in Delhi went into effect in April this year.
On June 17 of this year, the Center, as part of its “Citizen Financial Cyber Fraud Reporting and Management System” program, operationalized the hotline in some states to report all kinds of cybercrime and prevent losses. money in the event of cyber fraud.
According to data from the Delhi Police Cybercrime Prevention, Awareness and Detection (CyPAD) Center, Delhi Police received a total of 3,112 financial fraud complaints on the hotline between April and August. . The total amount siphoned from the accounts of victims, whose complaints were found to be founded upon verification, was almost ??14 crores.
“Almost 10% ( ??1.42 crore) of the total amount defrauded was returned to the victims because they had alerted in time to cyber fraud on the helpline and the cyber cell managers could block the suspects’ accounts with the help of the affected banks, companies online wallet and payment gateways. Said Deputy Police Commissioner (CyPAD) Anyesh Roy.
Of the 3,112 complainants, nearly 800 people kept the money from getting into the wrong hands by timely reporting fraud to the hotline. About 300 of the nearly 800 victims got the stolen money credited to their bank account. For the rest, refunds are partial and being canceled by respective banks, merchants, online wallets and payment gateways, CyPAD data indicates.
Previously, cyber fraud victims had to run from pillar to pillar to register their case and recover the stolen money. If there was any hope of recovering the stolen money once the cases were resolved and the suspects were arrested, canceling the amount was a tedious and time-consuming task, said cyber experts and police officers with whom HT got involved. maintained.
But, that has changed now. With the launch of the Cybercrime Hotline, the police, in coordination with financial institutions, immediately crack down on cybercriminals by blocking accounts to which the defrauded money is transferred or by canceling the delivery of goods that the suspects have. order using the stolen money, said cybersecurity expert Amit Dubey.
“By blocking their accounts, agencies are preventing the fraudulent money from reaching fraudsters,” said Dubey, who works as a police contact for 16 states, including Delhi Police and Police of the United States. ‘Uttar Pradesh, to solve cybercrimes.
Officials say many plaintiffs were unable to get their money back because they contacted the hotline late or their fraudulent money had become “irreversible” by the time police intervened.
DCP Roy said: “In cyber fraud, prompt reporting of the crime is key. Almost all of the cases where victims’ money was recovered were reported within 24 hours of the crime. The chances of recovering the cheated money are certain until the illegal transactions do not become irreversible, which means that the amount is either withdrawn in cash or reaches a stage where it is immediately impossible for the financial institution concerned. to block the account.
Police said the swift rollback of the cyber fraud transaction only became possible after the helpline became operational. Previously, people were only able to lodge their cybercrime complaints by email or by complaint to police stations. Since converting the complaint to FIR and starting the investigation was a time-consuming process, victims only received their money when suspects were arrested or cases were resolved.
“The victims only got their money back through the courts. There was nothing called immediate respite in terms of repayment of the defrauded amount, ”said an officer stationed in the Eastern District Cybercell.
Rakshit Tandon, another cyber expert, believes that while the cybercrime helpline has been productive in terms of helping victims of cyber fraud, digital policing is the need of the moment, given the surge in such cases. crimes. Lack of public awareness about cyber scams and how and where to report such cases on time is the main reason people fall prey to such scams and lose money.
“Providing a safe and secure ecosystem for digital payments is the goal of all financial institutions; no business wants its reputation to be compromised by cybercriminals. It is important to have a large digital police network to protect money transactions. And for that, agencies should make sure that no SIM card or bank account is activated without full proof verification. If these two areas are controlled, cyber fraud cases will certainly decrease, ”Tandon said.
How Cops Act After Receiving Cyber Fraud Complaints on the Helpline
When someone notifies the helpline of a cyber fraud, the police officer participating in the call fills out an online form using the personal and transaction details provided by the complainant. Once the form is submitted, the system generates a ticket for the complainant and sends an alert to the affected banks, merchants, payment gateways or online wallets, where the stolen money is transferred. The financial institutions concerned immediately block the money and return it to the complainant after verification.
In Saxena’s case, the suspects ordered three high-end iPhones costing more than ??3 lakh via e-commerce site and the delivery address was in Patna. Cybercell agents alerted the company, which canceled the order and returned the money to Saxena’s account.
“We only have ??2.25 lakh on the ??6.20 lakh that we lost. While we had some issues getting in touch with the cyber cell agents through the hotline, their response was swift once they received our complaint. My mom was completely in shock, but she got a bit of a break when a certain amount was canceled, ”said Saxena’s daughter, Ruchika Saxena.