Mumbai cyber police 6 arrest for creating 123 fake sites to dupe citizens; 10.5K people defrauded of ₹10 crore

City cyber police have busted an online fraud racket and arrested its six members from Bihar and West Bengal, including a software engineer for duping people on the internet using fake websites. The gang would advertisements on social media sites to direct people to these fake websites and steal their money under the guise of processing fees. HT had first reported about the gang in its January 2 edition.

Police said that the mastermind of the gang is a commerce graduate from Bihar who had been committing frauds for the last two years. “He is a millionaire and was in the process of buying a piece of land in West Bengal for ₹5 crore with the ill-gotten money. However, before he could buy the property, the police nabbed him,” said a cyber police officer, requesting anonymity.

Milind Bharambhe, joint commissioner of police (crime), on Wednesday, said that the mastermind of the racket was operating the gang in a very systematic and professional manner.

“He would regularly do a recce on the internet to know the latest trends and services that are being commonly used by people. The racket would create duplicate websites of service providers such as petrol pumps, LPG dealership agencies, private loans, shopping sites, etc. Among the fake websites that the gang had created include many government websites.The gang would then advertise the fake sites through messaging apps, popular social media sites and via phone calls. Customers were offered services at lucrative rates and asked to use the link to take them to the fake websites,” said Bharambhe.

The fake websites are so accurately made that a layperson cannot differentiate between them and the original website. The gang members would take money from their victims under the guise of processing fees, and cheat them, the senior officer said.

The six accused were arrested on various dates in the past week. Using technical investigative methods, police nabbed five of them from Bihar and West Bengal. One of the accused from Bihar managed to escape the police and fled to Maharashtra. He was arrested from Ratnagiri.

The police have seized five mobile phones, a laptop and ₹1 lakh from the arrested accused.

Interrogation of the accused revealed that the gang has been operational since July 2018, and it had so far created 123 websites. Of these websites, scanning the details of two websites revealed that 10,531 people have been cheated to the tune of over ₹10 crore. Scanning of the remaining 121 websites is underway, and the number of fraud victims and fraud amount is expected to increase by many folds in the coming days, crime branch chief said.

“The gang would outsource the con jobs such as making phone calls to potential victims through call centres, websites designers, etc. We urge victims to come forward and lodge complaints. We cannot reveal the names of the arrested accused as more accused are wanted in the case,” said Rashmi Karandikar, deputy commissioner of police (cyber).

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