Since 2020, nearly 1.27 lakh gullible Gujaratis have lost Rs 814.81 crore of their hard-earned money and life savings in a blink – this comes to 115 victims a day or five an hour. In the past three years, the CID Cyber Crime unit has reported 30,019 mobile numbers used by scammers to the Department of Telecom (DoT) to be blocked – this comes to 27 mobile numbers a day or one every hour. So, for every five people conned in an hour, only one ‘fraud’ mobile number is blocked, making controlling cybercrime a Sisyphean challenge.
Most of these numbers are registered in Mewat, Alwar, Bharatpur, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Nadia and rural areas of West Bengal, according to CID crime officials.
Sumit Mishra, DoT Gujarat director, said, “Last year alone, the re-verification process was done for about 30,000 suspect mobile numbers reported from Gujarat. Of these, more than 75% were deactivated. Most of these numbers had been registered outside the state. In 2022, some 1,500 pan-India mobile phone numbers reported from Gujarat were taken down by the DoT.”
“The details of the suspect mobile numbers across India are received from Gujarat’s Cyber Crime Cell, CID Crime,” he added.
Mukesh Chaudhry, a cyber-ops expert and a consultant for Rajasthan police on cybercrime told TOI, “The scammers procure pre-activated SIM cards from gangs belonging to a different state and then buy a list of e-wallets from a gang operating in another state. They know the police will not travel 1,000 kilometres for a fraud involving Rs 30,000.”
During the pandemic year, 2020, 23,055 complaints were lodged by citizens on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCCRP) helpline ‘1930’ and various state police stations – the quantum of financial fraud involved was Rs 95.29 crore. The following year, the number of complaints increased to 28,908 and the frauds amounted to Rs 366.88 crore. In 2022, however, complaints more than doubled to 66,997, and the frauds amounted to Rs 306.4 crore.
In the first 34 days of 2023, Gujarat lost Rs 1.37cr each day to cybercrooks; in 2022, the corresponding figure was Rs 83.94 lakh and the previous year, a little above Rs 1 crore.
Additional DGP, CID (Crime and Railways), RB Brahmbhatt, said that awareness among people is the only way to prevent cybercrime. He said that the state police have been constantly spreading awareness about cybercrime cases but these have been taking place relentlessly.