CID blacklists 30,000 SIM cards used to con 1.27 lakh Gujaratis of Rs 815 crore
AHMEDABAD: How many times have you been butted in by scammers with romance chat links, SMS ultimatums about power disconnections, and lucky draw and bitcoin offers that sound too good to be true? And how many times have you gone against your instincts and clicked suspicious links for KYC updates and OTPs?
Since 2020, nearly 1.27 lakh gullible Gujaratis have lost Rs 814.81 crore of their hard-earned money and life savings in a blink – this comes to 115 victims a day or five an hour. In the past three years, the CID Cyber Crime unit has reported 30,019 mobile numbers used by scammers to the Department of Telecom (DoT) to be blocked – this comes to 27 mobile numbers a day or one every hour. So, for every five people conned in an hour, only one ‘fraud’ mobile number is blocked, making controlling cybercrime a Sisyphean challenge.
Most of these numbers are registered in Mewat, Alwar, Bharatpur, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Nadia and rural areas of West Bengal, according to CID crime officials.
Awareness is the only way to prevent cybercrime: Cops
Sumit Mishra, DoT Gujarat director, said, “Last year alone, the re-verification process was done for about 30,000 suspect mobile numbers reported from Gujarat. Of these, more than 75% were deactivated. Most of these numbers had been registered outside the state. In 2022, some 1,500 pan-India mobile phone numbers reported from Gujarat were taken down by the DoT.”
“The details of the suspect mobile numbers across India are received from Gujarat’s Cyber Crime Cell, CID Crime,” he added.
Mukesh Chaudhry, a cyber-ops expert and a consultant for Rajasthan police on cybercrime told TOI, “The scammers procure pre-activated SIM cards from gangs belonging to a different state and then buy a list of e-wallets from a gang operating in another state. They know the police will not travel 1,000 kilometres for a fraud involving Rs 30,000.”
The sheer scale of phone numbers involved is mind-boggling.
During the pandemic year, 2020, 23,055 complaints were lodged by citizens on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCCRP) helpline ‘1930’ and various state police stations – the quantum of financial fraud involved was Rs 95.29 crore. The following year, the number of complaints increased to 28,908 and the frauds amounted to Rs 366.88 crore. In 2022, however, complaints more than doubled to 66,997, and the frauds amounted to Rs 306.4 crore.
The biggest challenge for the police has been the existing legislation that does not categorize the acts of cyber financial frauds as a separate offence. That explains why only a few FIRs are registered. According to the 2020 and 2021 reports of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), only 583 and 783 FIRs of cyber frauds respectively were lodged in those years – most of these involved phone scammers.
In the first 34 days of 2023, Gujarat lost Rs 1.37cr each day to cybercrooks; in 2022, the corresponding figure was Rs 83.94 lakh and the previous year, a little above Rs 1 crore.
“The reason for the huge volume of these small frauds is that they capitalize on human greed – the Indian mindset of accumulating more for less through discounts and freebies. These cybercrooks are not the sharpest minds, but they have figured out a way to con people,” said DySP B M Tank, Cybercell, CID Crime.
Additional DGP, CID (Crime and Railways), RB Brahmbhatt, said that awareness among people is the only way to prevent cybercrime. He said that the state police have been constantly spreading awareness about cybercrime cases but these have been taking place relentlessly.