VISAKHAPATNAM: A week ago, the wife of an HPCL employee received a call from a stranger claiming to be a bank executive who said her bank account details needed to be updated. The woman’s son, an engineering student, revealed the PIN and other details. Minutes later, Rs 55,000 was siphoned off from the account. On Aug 10, a person from Balayya Sastry Layout received a similar call and lost Rs 39,000.
In the past seven months, Vizag has registered 170 cyber fraud cases, of which 110 are related to siphoning off of money from bank accounts. The spurt in one-time passwords (OTP) frauds has left the police befuddled. “Despite several warnings, citizens fall prey to conmen and share confidential details. A series of awareness camps appear to have yielded little,” said cyber crime investigation cell inspector G Satyanarayana.
Fraudsters often trick account holders, saying that the latter would lose money or have their transactions blocked. But the city police, in a majority of the cases, do little. Of the 226 OTP cases registered in the last two years, only 15 have been cracked so far. “In most of the cases, fraudsters posed as ICICI or SBI representatives and around 90 per cent of the calls were made from the rural areas of Dhanbad in Jharkhand, Banka district in Bihar, Asansol in West Bengal or Tinsukia in Assam and some places in Maharashtra,” Satyanarayana said. The Cyber Crime Investigation Cell is handicapped by a shortage of trained manpower and equipment. With just 12 personnel, including an inspector and an SI, investigations take a long time, sources said. In many cases, the clues are slight. Citing one case, a police officer said they traced that a fraud call made from Asansol. But during the investigation it was revealed that the phone used for the crime was a stolen one and the SIM card was purchased on fake identity proof.
In another case, the CCIC team followed a bank account used for transfer of the stolen money, only to find that it was opened on the basis of fake documents. “Most of the crimes are done from different states and language becomes a hindrance. Recently, our team was chased by locals with sticks and chilli powder in Bihar,” said Satyanarayana.