Cashing in on primal instincts seems to be the magic mantra of cyberbullying gangs in Gujarat. As many as 26,000 cases of cyberbullying have been registered with the state’s cyber cell in the one year from March 2022 to March 2023.
Police officers in charge of the anti-cyberbullying helpline have now identified 15,129 victims in the state who have been subjected to “sextortion.” Simply put, people looking to make quick bucks in the dark cyber world, know exactly where it hurts most. “No individual would want his sexploits or fantasies known. The net allows voyeurs to indulge in limitless titillation. Then, clips luring them to private chats are inserted. Once the user gets addicted, these racketeers encourage sharing recordings or live acts on camera. That is where the trap lies. The clip is used to blackmail the targets till they pay up. For fear of social stigmas, few report in the first instance and come to seek help only when they have already paid-up huge amounts,” shared cyber cell CID (Crime) sub-inspector Sunil Chaudhri.
He adds that the helpline 1930 has been of immense help. “The victim is assured that he will not be seen. Once, the trust is built up, the case details are shared and the victim is assured that his/her confidentiality will be maintained,” he stated.
The cyber cell has fulltime counsellors to help unsuspecting targets unravel their fears. Netizens are lured by fake loan apps, cyberstalkers and sex traps. Then, they are blackmailed with the threat of posting the clips/ chat transcripts on social media.
“Once the racketeers gain access to the device’s contact lists, they start arm twisting the victims. A huge portion of the network thrives because professional hackers are employed as key operators in the racket. They also create fake IDs. The CID trail led us to 7,038 fake accounts. In less than a year, we managed to remove 4,319 accounts from Instagram, 2,271 from Facebook, 242 fake loan apps and banned 33 WhatsApp groups, 30 YouTube accounts, 14 SnapChat accounts and 120 odd websites that were used for cyberbullying,” explained Chaudhri.
Shedding light on the same, B.M. Tank, DySP cybercell, Gujarat CID crime, stated that anonymity is the key weapon for cyberbullies.
“Nearly 2,484 SIM cards, which were used by cybercriminals to harass their victims have been blocked following Gujarat CID crime’s recommendation. But a growing worry for Gujarat CID crime is the harassment that citizens face after they take loans from mobile-based apps. In September last year, a woman from Ghatlodia area, was almost driven to suicide after she took a loan of Rs 5,000 from one such app. She did not tell anyone in the family about the loan. The cyberbullies would call her late in the night and threaten her with dire consequences. We convinced her to calm down and even threatened the callers with action. The problem was eventually solved,” added Tank.
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