Delhi man held ‘digitally captive’ for hours, bank account drained

Elaborate cybercrime scheme drains bank account after false Mumbai Customs detainment
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NEW DELHI: It was an extraordinary cybercrime. Vishal Kumar (name changed), a resident of Munirka in southwest Delhi, was going about his day on December 30, 2023, when at precisely 8:43 am, his phone rang.

“Hello, is this Vishal Kumar?” the caller inquired. “Yes, who’s calling?” Vishal responded. “Mr. Vishal, your FedEx Parcel has been detained at Mumbai Customs due to illicit documents discovered within: 4 passports, 4 credit cards, 1 laptop, 4 kg of clothing, and 200 grams of MDMA,” the caller disclosed.

Vishal was taken aback, having not visited Mumbai in over a year. Inquiring about the sender’s address, he learned the packages were dispatched from Mumbai using his Aadhar card and mobile number, as per sources.

As he waited, Vishal could hear the man's voice, probably on a wireless, talking to another person and verifying Vishal's Aadhaar details. "Sir, this Aadhar card number is being used in money laundering and drug peddling cases," Vishal heard over the phone the voice of the third person who was probably speaking through a wireless.

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He also heard this -- There is an account in his name in Chennai, in Bangalore, and in Mumbai and a huge amount of money has been transacted from this account. "Mr Vishal, this is very serious. We need to investigate and interrogate you. We can no longer talk on the phone. You have to get connected to Mumbai Crime Branch through Skype," the caller said and gave him a routing number through which Vishal connected.

The man posing as a Mumbai Police Crime Branch officer then thoroughly questioned Vishal, asking him about everything and his whereabouts for hours. The suspect then told him that he would now be questioned by a Delhi Police Crime Branch officer but before speaking to him, Vishal needed to read a letter right away.

When Vishal asked him about the letter, the man sent him two letters through Skype on Mumbai Police Crime Branch letterhead. The letter read, "I am offender and accused and I will have to be investigated, and until the investigation, I will have to cooperate with the police department."

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The game of cyber-conning was now heading towards its last leg.

The alleged people now told Vishal that they need to cease his bank account to check for any kind of illegal transaction and Vishal needs to pay them 89% of the total amount that is in his savings account. "Don't worry, it will be credited immediately after the next 30 minutes, once the investigation is over," Vishal was told.

To further add the flavor of authenticity to whatever they were saying, the suspected people asked Vishal to transfer the exact amount, or else a difference in amount could land him in further trouble.

It had been more than 4 hours since Vishal had been held hostage digitally. He was not allowed to move, disconnect the call, or even contact his lawyer.

Vishal ultimately gave up and transferred the amount. But when he was doing that, the alleged people hacked his laptop and even his mobile phone and emptied his bank account, which he found out after some time. The police in Delhi have registered this unique case of 'cyber captivity' and are currently investigating it.

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The New Indian Express