A joint operation by central and state police agencies has busted a pan-India “Fraud-to-Phone” scam using the Union home ministry's financing coordination group (FCORD) network.
The FCORD was started as a special coordination group by the MHA to share intelligence among the different central and state security agencies to counter the problem of circulation of fake currency in the country. But its mandate was expanded to frauds and terror financing. By August 2019, it set up a CyberSafe app to detect and track cyber frauds in real time. Today, the CyberSafe app links more than 3,000 Law Enforcement Authorities (LEAs), including police stations in 19 states and Union territories with 18 fintech entities online and in real-time.
On June 11, a case of cyber fraud of Rs 6.5 lakh was reported by a 78-year old resident of Udaipur to CyberSafe. The F2P caller was operating from Jharkhand.
The MHA officials said the FCORD-run CyberSafe app started tracking the caller and it was revealed that the funds were directly credited to three SBI cards, which were used to buy 33 expensive China-made Xiaomi POCO M3 mobile phones from Flipkart.
Within minutes the delivery addresses in Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh were identified and the Superintendent of Police of Balaghat was informed. The MP police detained the mastermind and all the 33 new phones and several more were seized from him.
“The F2P gang bought these phones for about Rs 10,000 each and sold them in the black market,” said an investigator .
Meanwhile, the Jharkhand police have arrested the F2P caller. But this was not all. A cross country network of cyber fraud was revealed during the investigation where the F2P gang was running several hundred operatives for various levels of transactions which involved OTP fraud, credit cards frauds, e-Commerce frauds, fake IDs, fake mobile numbers, fake addresses, black marketing, tax evasion, money laundering and stolen goods.
While eight F2P gang masterminds were arrested—two each from Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh and four from Jharkhand—sources said 350 people are under scanner across a dozen states.
Investigators said nearly 300 new mobile phones bought from stolen funds have been seized and nearly hundred bank accounts and debit and credit cards have been frozen.
“At least 900 cell phones, 1000 bank accounts and hundreds of UPI and e-commerce IDs of this gang were identified and are under investigation,” said an official.
The accused are also being questioned about the reason for buying a large number of China- made phones, especially those made by Xiaomi.
Till now, nearly 65,000 phone frauds have been reported on the CyberSafe app and 55,000 phone numbers and several thousand bank accounts of fraudsters identified.
The National Payments Corporation of India is planning to integrate with CyberSafe to expand the ambit of real time prevention of cyber crime to the UPI domain and amplify its success in crime prevention.
(The story was first published in The Week)