A sub engineer with the Railways from a small Madhya Pradesh town, a senior citizen from Rajasthan, a cyber fraud industry from Jharkhand and a Chinese phone brand. This was the network of a multi-crore phone/cyber fraud industry that was unravelled by agencies across 18 States.
25-year-old Hukum Singh Bisen had recently been employed as a sub engineer in Indian Railways. An engineering graduate, Bisen was a civil service aspirant. He came across as any other young, aspirational youngsters of India till the Balaghat police went knocking at his door. Bisen turned out to be a key link in a multi-crore cyber fraud conspiracy spread across 18 States.
The Superintendent of Police of Balaghat, Abhishek Tewari, told News18 that Bisen’s arrest has blown the lid off the conspiracy to defraud a senior citizen in Rajasthan but it is just the tip of the iceberg. MHA officials said that a 78-year-old Udaipur resident had complained on June 11 that Rs 6.5 lakh were taken out of his bank account after a phone call that fraudulently accessed his OTP.
“Tracking via the FCORD-run CyberSafe app 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,” a statement from MHA said.
Investigation revealed that the caller who fraudulently gained access to the OTP of the senior citizen was a Jharkhand resident Sanjay Mahto. The Jharkhand police have now arrested him.
“The SBI cards were used to buy phones which were delivered at fake addresses in Balaghat. Bisen would collect these phones, sell them to retailers in MP, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra at a 10% discount and deposit the cash from sale in various bank accounts,” SP Balaghat told News18.
But officials said this fraud involves close to 800 people and now agencies in 18 States are working to arrest them and blow the lid off this fraud which could be worth at least 20 crores.
“This F2P (Fraud to phone) Gang had several hundred operatives who were running different legs of the transactions which involved OTP fraud, credit card frauds, e-Commerce frauds, fake IDs, fake mobile numbers, fake addresses, black marketing, tax evasion, money laundering and habitually dealing with stolen goods,” MHA officials who coordinated the pan-India investigation via the website cyber safe told News18. They added that eight F2P Gang masterminds (MP 2, Jharkhand 4, AP-2) have been arrested and nearly 300 new mobile phones bought from stolen funds seized. Further, 900 cell phones, 1,000 bank accounts and hundreds of UPI and e-commerce IDs of this gang have been identified and are under investigation, while nearly 100 bank accounts and debit/credit cards have been frozen.
Balaghat said that the MHA website helped spot the trend in this pan-India fraud. “CyberSafe helped us crunch the data and spot the trend in no time. It helped in this investigation,” the officer said.
But beyond the crime, central intelligence agencies are also curious why only Chinese phones were preferred by the scamsters. Police officials said one reason could be that these phones are in high demand and are only available online. “Retailers can not order these phones in bulk since the company only sells them online. So when people like Bisen offered these high in demand phones in bulk at a 10% discount, there was a market available,” a police officer investigating the case told News18.
However, the central agencies want to see if there is any Chinese conspiracy angle to this fraud. “The accused are also being questioned for reasons for preference of China-made phones, especially those made by Xiaomi,” the officer said.
The investigation is being hailed as a success story in inter-agency cooperation and data sharing via the MHA portal.
CyberSafe is an app created by FCORD, operative from August 2019. It links more than 3,000 Law Enforcement Authorities (LEAs), including police stations, in 19 States/UTs with 18 fintech entities online and in real-time.