(Source of image: The Times of India)
A syndicate run by a group of Chinese nationals was busted on June 9, by Delhi Police's Cyber Cell. The Deputy Commissioner of police of Cyber Crime Cell (CyPAD), Aneesh Roy informed that these people have been stealing data and "Over 5,00,000 confirmed victims have been cheated of more than Rs 150 crores. Over Rs, 11 crores have been frozen in banks by swift police action and Rs 97 Lakh cash has been recovered from a Gurgaon-based CA who formed over 110 companies for Chinese fraudsters." Police arrested 11 people, including two Chartered Accountants and a Tibetan woman. They cheated people through malicious “quick earning” apps. According to the police commissioner, S Shrivastava, over Rs 150 crore was lost in just two months. How did the Syndicate operate: - The Chinese handlers contacted people randomly contacted via various communication apps like Whatsapp and Telegram. - Interested people were hired as ‘partners’ to procure bogus bank accounts, creating shell companies, circulating, promoting their fraudulent apps, and transferring money. - The link to an online app was circulated which induced and cheated people by promising them profitable returns. - Under the ‘schemes’, the fraudsters designed and circulated mobile apps that stole the data of their victims. - Links to apps, such as Power Bank, Sun Factory, Lightning Power Bank, etc, were circulated through YouTube, Telegram, WhatsApp, and bulk SMSes. They used the MLM (multi-level-marketing) model. - Upon investigation, it was discovered that to entice investors, the fraudsters gave a small payout amounting to 5-10 percent of the invested money. - The police said, once someone invested a large amount, their account would be blocked by the app. Delhi Police said, "These apps offered lucrative returns on investment with claims to double the investment amount in 24-35 days. They also had schemes promising returns on an hourly and daily basis, and had investment options starting from Rs 300 to several lakhs." The footprints have been confirmed in West Bengal, NCR Region, Bengaluru, Odisha, Assam, and Surat. How Was the Scam Discovered?
There was a various post on social media regarding “Power Bank and EZPlan” – two apps that offered to double the invested amount within a month. The malware forensic lab of CyPAD-NCFL (National Cyber Forensic lab) was asked to examine the apps. According to the reports, “CyPAD officials found the apps to deceive people, and that Power Bank app projected itself as a product of a Bengaluru-based technology startup.” But the server, on which the app was hosted, was based in China. The app was associated with permissions like reading and write to external storage, access to camera, and read contact details. How Were the Scamsters Caught?
Acted as a customer, a CyPAd officer invested a token amount using the app and followed the money trail. This led the cybercrime cell to linked payment gateways, UPI IDs, transaction IDs, bank accounts used for routing the money. Subsequently, a network of 25 shell companies was traced which were used for routing the ill-gained money. Roy said that numerous phone numbers connected with the bank accounts were found running in China. Roy was quoted as, “Further analysis of mobile numbers active in India led to the arrest of Sheikh Robin in West Bengal’s Uluberia. The same day, nine other suspects were arrested, while a Tibetan woman, Pema Wangmo, was arrested later from Delhi’s IGI Airport.” Shaikh Robin was contacted by the Chinese through Telegram. He initially opened a bank account for them but later started acting as an operative whose task was to manage a large number of fund transfers, while the fraudsters were safe outside India. Police recovered 30 active mobile phones from Robin. At the time of his arrest, he had the custody of 29 bank accounts. Acting upon the directive of the Chinese, Wangmo with Indian directors creates shell companies. Abhishek Mansaramani, Umakant Akash Joys, Ved Chandra, Hari Om (all residents of Delhi), were arrested. The others involved in the scam are identified as Avik Kedia and Ronak Bansal (the two CAs), Mithlesh Sharma and Arvind, Shashi Bansal.