Mumbai Cyber Cell has arrested six scammers from Bhopal and its neighboring state West Bengal, who were running a cartel of duping individuals through 123 phishing websites impersonating popular e-commerce brands. The fraud amounted to nearly ₹10Cr (approximately $13,64,825) and victimized 10,000 people.
The Modus Operandi
According to the cyber cell, the gang created spam ads, advertised them on popular social media platforms and gave lucrative deals that would be hard to resist. They even promoted these advertisements on WhatsApp and sent malicious links to those interested in it. The scammers further created identical fake/phishing websites of popular e-commerce brands and leveraged them into gaining users’ trust and personal information. The scam set up was pre-planned. Scammers operated from a small call center that was set up in Patna, India. The list of fake websites includes petrol pumps/ LPG dealership agencies, private loan providers, Reliance towers, Snapdeal, and Naaptol, among others.
Explaining the operations of scammers, and the fake websites they set up, an official said, “For example, it is a website about getting an LPG dealership, it will seek all the general information such as identity proof and all the documents for registration purposes. It will then ask to deposit a certain amount following some more steps, which is done even on an authentic website. People usually fill-up all the details and deposit the money, and then get to know of the scam, only later.”
The incident was first brought to light on December 15, 2020, after a customer was duped for an amount of ₹3.6 lakhs. After following the trail carefully, the Mumbai cyber cell traced the scammers back to Bhopal and West Bengal. They immediately sent a team to get hold of the scammers. Six individuals, including a woman, were arrested and questioned. As per the latest reports, the gang had been operational since July 2018, and the arrested members have accepted their wrongful doings.
A few more members are involved and absconding. The officials noted that the investigation is on-going, and the search parties are looking out for the missing members.