Insurance fraud, gift fraud, Bulli Bai: Mumbai Police cracking more cyber crime cases than ever

While cases of sextortion, insurance fraud and misuse of the dark web are on the rise, Cyber Crime Cell of Mumbai Police is cracking more cases than ever before, as many as 60% of the cases last year

Insurance fraud, gift fraud, Bulli Bai: Mumbai Police cracking more cyber crime cases than ever

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Cyber criminals are generally confident that they cannot be traced or tracked, which explains the impunity with which they commit such crime, reflects Rashmi Karandikar, the DCP heading the Cyber Cell of Mumbai Police.

Cyber criminals know, says Dr Rashmi Karandikar, that police would have no CCTV footage to fall back on or look up history-sheeters for clues. They are also careful in not using their personal phones and take other steps to avoid detection. But detection of cyber crimes by Mumbai Police, she points out, has gone up from just about 20% to 60%.

She and her team have been in the news after tracking the culprits responsible for operating the Bulli Bai app, used to upload over 100 photographs of Muslim women, including one of the wife of a High Court judge, for ‘mock’ online auction on January 1, 2022. Mumbai Police cracked the case in record time after their Delhi counterparts had failed to make any breakthrough in the similar Sulli Deals app controversy.

Karandikar, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics, and a doctorate in sociology, recalls that as the head of the Cyber Cell, her first case dealt with sextortion. The culprits were luring young women during the lockdown to shoot for their YouTube channel, tempting them with breaks in the film industry. Some were forced or persuaded to pose for compromising videos. A few were then blackmailed into paying money.

Most of the cyber criminals seem to be from the age group of 19 and 21. Brash and overconfident, they believe the Internet ensures them anonymity, a mask under which they can do what they like. Their conviction that nobody can nab them prompts some of them to take to crime. But then crime never really pays and they are likely to be caught sooner or later, says Karandikar. She should know what she is talking about, being a ‘Certified Ethical Hacker’. She has also completed courses in Computer Hacking Forensic Investigation (CHFI) and has a diploma in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Cases of insurance fraud and ‘custom gift fraud’, along with sextortion, she says, have gone up sharply. But few victims of sextortion volunteer to lodge formal complaints, which explains the low numbers in the official record, she says.

Her team has busted a few insurance frauds and recovered Rs.75 lakhs or so duped. In one of the rare cases, she recalls, a pregnant woman from the North East was forced to sell her bank account for the paltry amount of Rs 2000.

In yet another case, a group of youngsters defrauded a senior citizen and his wife for over six months. They gave the name ‘ Aladin’ to the couple and defrauded them every time they wanted money for a trip or to buy luxury goods. Avid watchers of crime serials, they had covered their tracks, never using their personal phones for the crime. The victim eventually reached out to Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagarale. All the culprits were caught.

The Cyber Cell, she claims, has also saved at least 30 lives. Recalling one such case she says it was an alert from Facebook that led the team to track a person in Dhule district, who had threatened to commit suicide. He had apparently been framed in a false case and he wanted his side to be known. A police team reached his house within 15 minutes of the alert, she remembers with satisfaction, and prevented the attempted suicide.

Acutely conscious that police stations are not perceived to be people-friendly, her attempt has been to ensure that women visiting the police station are put at ease. Patience and sensitivity are required to deal with victims, collect all relevant information and assure them that we are happy to help, she adds.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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