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China, pockets of Cambodia and Myanmar are epicentre of cybercrime: I4C chief | #cybercrime | #infosec

The 1930 helpline is operational in all 36 States and Union Territories. 
| Photo Credit: AP

Around 50% of cyber-crime complaints received on the national cyber crime helpline every day have their origin in China and pockets of Cambodia and Myanmar, Rajesh Kumar, chief executive officer of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Wednesday.

Mr. Kumar was addressing a press conference on Tuesday. He said that on average 5,000 cyber complaints are registered in the country every day. From April 1, 2021-December 31, 2023, ₹10,319 crore had been lost to cyber fraud, he said. In 2023, around 15.5 lakh cyber crime complaints were received, up from 26,049 such complaints in 2019. In the past five years, 31 lakh cyber crime complaints were received and FIRs were filed in 66,000 cases.  

“5,000 complaints are filed every day. Our estimate is that around 40-50% originate outside the country. When I say outside the country, the country that you mentioned, not the nation State, but the gangs that are operating from those countries are running these applications. We have pockets in Cambodia and Myanmar. We are seeing Chinese Apps, who is denying?” Mr. Kumar said responding to a question by The Hindu on the volume of frauds and cyber-crimes that originate from China. 

People affected by financial frauds and other online crimes can register complaints on cybercrime.gov.in or the 1930 helpline number. 

The 1930 helpline is operational in all 36 States and Union Territories. If a call is made by a victim of financial fraud within an hour of the crime being committed, the banks are able to block the money. 

₹1127 crore blocked

Since April 2021, ₹1127 crore has been blocked in several bank accounts on complaints by 4.3 lakh victims. However, only ₹100 crore has so far been returned to complainants. 

The officer said this was an area of concern and the government is working on a mechanism to help people get back blocked money. “We have consulted banks who told us that they need a court order to release money blocked in someone’s account. We have had legal consultations with the concerned authority and have devised a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address the issue. It awaits last legal vetting. We should be able to address the problem in the next few months,” Mr. Kumar said.

As many as 263 banks, e-commerce companies and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) that developed the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) have been integrated with the 1930 helpline. 

Automated tickets are raised whenever a complaint is received and the money is blocked even if it has jumped from one bank to another.

The CEO said that so far 2,95,461 SIM cards, 2,810 websites, 595 mobile applications and 46,229 IMEI numbers have been blocked based on complaints received. He added that West Bengal, Odisha and Assam were hotspots for SIM cards procured through fraudulent means. 

Investment app scams

The officer said that there were five major cybercrime trends noticed last year: around 1.49 lakh complaints were received against Investment Apps/Websites which offered part time jobs or lured people into Ponzi schemes; 85,000 complaints pertaining to Illegal loan Apps; 43,000 complaints on Customer Care Number and One Time Password (OTP) frauds; 34,000 complaints of Impersonation or takeover of social media accounts and 19,000 complaints of Sextortion. 

“Most investment apps originate from inimical countries. People are even called to foreign countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia to commit the fraud. We recently helped Indians stuck in Myanmar return. In the loan apps scam, the victim’s data is made a collateral as the scammers take control of their phone and people in their contact list are harassed if the victims are unable to repay the loan taken at a very high interest rate,” Mr. Kumar said adding that they were finding it difficult to get a grip on loan App crimes. 

He said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has whitelisted 395 Instant Loan Apps for the benefit of consumers and I4C has flagged “mule accounts” to banks and fintech companies. 

“Due to the aggregate data available to us at the national level now, we are able to identify and flag the mule accounts and also the name of the banks, branch location and geography where such accounts are opened. With the help of police and banks we are getting such accounts blocked,” the officer added. 

Most cyber crimes were reported from Haryana, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Goa. Among Union Territories, most complaints came from Delhi, followed by Chandigarh and Puducherry.

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