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Students in Bengaluru fall prey to ‘courier scam’; police note spike in cases | #cybercrime | #infosec


A cyber fraud targeting young people – mostly students – into believing that they have been trapped in a web of crime with ‘courier parcels’ allegedly containing drugs or other illegal items being sent in their names has led to several youths in Bengaluru and other parts of the country being duped of lakhs of rupees.

The ‘courier scam’, which has been around for a while, involves fake policemen impersonating officers from the CBI and narcotics and terrorist units of the Maharashtra Police and has seen a resurgence in recent weeks.

On June 23, a PhD student at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru filed a police complaint over the loss of Rs 1,34,650 to the scam. The 30-year-old told the police she received a call from a person impersonating a FedEx employee, saying a package in her name had arrived containing illegal items and that a case of identity theft had occurred.

The ‘courier scam’, which has been around for a while, involves fake policemen impersonating officers from the CBI and narcotics and terrorist units of the Maharashtra Police and has seen a resurgence in recent weeks. (Representational/File)

A cyber fraud targeting young people – mostly students – into believing that they have been trapped in a web of crime with ‘courier parcels’ allegedly containing drugs or other illegal items being sent in their names has led to several youths in Bengaluru and other parts of the country being duped of lakhs of rupees.

The ‘courier scam’, which has been around for a while, involves fake policemen impersonating officers from the CBI and narcotics and terrorist units of the Maharashtra Police and has seen a resurgence in recent weeks.

On June 23, a PhD student at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru filed a police complaint over the loss of Rs 1,34,650 to the scam. The 30-year-old told the police she received a call from a person impersonating a FedEx employee, saying a package in her name had arrived containing illegal items and that a case of identity theft had occurred.

“Next, they transferred my call to a Mumbai Narcotics Division where another person asked me to join a Skype call to take my statements. They provided documents from CBI, RBI etc. They took my bank statement and asked me to send money to verify my bank accounts,” she said, adding that she transferred Rs 1,34,650 to a bank account.

“They impersonated a Mumbai Narcotics Division officer and threatened me of illegally supplying MDMA. Extremely scared and panicked, I transferred the money. I kindly request you to take legal action and freeze the transactions,” she told the Bengaluru central division police in her complaint.

A few weeks earlier, on May 7, a 20-year-old student filed an almost similar police complaint in Bengaluru where she told the police that she was cheated of Rs 98,600 after she panicked and believed she was caught in a web of crime on account of a parcel that had arrived in her name.

According to her complaint, she received a call from an unidentified caller who claimed to be a FedEx staffer and alleged that a parcel had been received in her name containing illegal items. The caller claimed that a police complaint was being registered over the parcel and transferred the call to an unidentified person who claimed to be a police officer with the Mumbai police. He told the victim she would be helped by a public prosecutor for the payment of a fee of Rs 98,600.

The scared student, who was sent pictures of the alleged illegal parcel and the ID cards of the fake police officer and prosecutor, transferred funds as demanded before realising (when the demands for funds did not stop) that she had been defrauded by cyber crooks.

A similar crime that occurred recently was highlighted by Nithin Kamath, the founder and CEO of the Bengaluru-headquartered financial services firm Zerodha, on social media on June 23.

“There’s a new scam in the name of FedEx, Blue Dart, and other courier companies that you need to be aware of. A colleague got a call from a person claiming to be from FedEx saying that a parcel had been confiscated by the police because drugs were found in it,” Kamath said on his social media account.

“Since he was expecting a courier from an e-commerce platform, he panicked. He then got a video call from someone claiming to be the police and issued this official-looking letter. They shared the bank details to transfer funds to release the package,” he said on Twitter.

“Since the fake police had his AADHAR number, this made the entire ordeal more convincing. This person panicked & transferred the money immediately. If this can happen to a person working in a company that constantly sensitizes everyone to cyber fraud, it can happen to anyone,” Kamath said.

“In a situation like this, the best thing is to say, I will get my lawyer to speak to you; it doesn’t matter even if you don’t have a lawyer. Most fraudsters prey on people who panic and react instinctively. Slowing down before reacting is the key,” he added.

According to a senior Bengaluru police officer, who handles cybercrimes in the city, there have been dozens of cases filed in recent months involving cyber frauds with small variations of the modus operandi. Most cases begin with a fake FedEx or courier call from unidentified numbers.

“Investigations of these cases – on the basis of the phone numbers and bank accounts – indicate that the gangs are operating from remote locations. In one case, we found that two calls to the victim originated in Pune and one call from Bihar,” the police officer said.

The Bengaluru police are unable to investigate and take cybercrime cases to their logical conclusion – the arrest and prosecution of the accused – on account of the lack of resources, including personnel, to carry out investigations at remote locations, the officer added.

“There should be a national level co-operation among police forces for tackling cybercrimes that is allied with the 1930 national cybercrime helpline. No amount of increasing local police stations or personnel will help,” the police officer said.

Cybercrimes make up nearly 80 per cent of all cases in Bengaluru. In 2019, 10,555 cybercrime cases were registered in the city, with the police solving 2,059 of these cases (19 per cent). In 2020, 8,892 cybercrime cases were registered with 3,001 solved (30 per cent); in 2021, 6,423 cases were registered and 1,902 cases were solved (29 per cent); and in 2022, over 10,000 cases were registered with the percentage of cases solved not disclosed as yet.

Incidentally, Bengaluru recorded the largest number of cybercrime cases (8,500 cases per year) among all metropolitan cities in the country in the last four years, with Mumbai ranked second (2,619 cases) and Hyderabad third (2,400 cases), according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of 2021. The report reveals that charge sheets were filed in only 32.6 per cent of cybercrime cases in Bengaluru, with Mumbai witnessing a charge sheet rate of 27.2 per cent.

“Banks are facilitating the opening of accounts without following KYC norms, and many accounts are being used to siphon stolen funds. Telecom service providers provide SIM cards without verification, resulting in the rise of cybercrimes. There is no accountability,” a Bengaluru police officer said.



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