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When you aren’t you in the virtual world

Cyber crime police say there has been a rise in cases where individual identities are misused for blackmail and other illegal activities

Published: 25th November 2017 10:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th November 2017 07:11 AM   |  A+A-

Illustration: suvajit dey

BENGALURU : A Bengaluru-based techie would receive multiple phone calls from unknown numbers and all of these came after 10 pm. The callers sought to know how much she “charged” for the “services” she offered. When 38-year-old Ramya (name changed) received the first of such calls, she assumed that someone had dialled her number by mistake. It just took another call for her to come to terms with reality. The callers not just had her number but also her name and other details right.

It was when Ramya took some time to interact with one of the callers that she realised where they had sourced her details from. She was a victim of misuse of online identity. A fake Facebook account had been created in her name and this was shared on websites of some escort services.
Cyber crime police say this is a recent trend in the virtual world and cases of misuse of identity for blackmail and other illegal activities are increasing. Of the 2,039 cases registered with them, 319 relate to identity theft and misuse.

In Ramya’s case, she approached the cyber crime police and lodged a complaint. She suspected that her husband could be involved in the act. The couple had a marital discord. Her husband Rakesh (name changed) had filed a divorce petition in court and ever since, things turned sour between the couple.
Police investigations revealed that her worst fears had come true. Rakesh, in an attempt to malign her character and prove a point in the court for grant of divorce, had created the fake Facebook account and uploaded it on multiple dating and escort service sites.   

In another similar case filed by a woman software engineer in Whitefield police station, her image was morphed and posted along with her phone number on a website offering escort services. The Whitefield police registered case under Information Technology Act and transferred it to the cyber crime police.
“In many cases, we have noticed that women have shared images of themselves with their Facebook or WhatsApp friend. In some other instances, we also noticed that photos of women are being accessed from social media sites, morphed and posted on various porn and other websites. Many women have in the past been blackmailed that morphed images would be uploaded on social media or on porn websites either for money or for sexual favours,” sources in the cyber crime police said. “In most cases, the victim and the offender are known to each other, either in the virtual world or in person,” they pointed out.

Police sources say Facebook and other social media platforms do not respond to their queries in time or never respond, which almost kills the investigation even before it starts. The companies cite privacy policies and US laws, but the victims here undergo the trauma.  Not just individuals, there have been instances where photos of organisations too are misused to spread fake messages on internet, they said.

When police fell prey
The Twitter account of Bengaluru city police was also misused recently. An image of the Twitter handle was morphed and a post started circulating saying, “tag that friend who rides bike without license”. The morphed image was reportedly posted from a Twitter handle of ‘Kirik Adda’, a troll page. After this came to the notice of the social media cell of the city police, they posted, “identity theft, virtually or otherwise, can land you in trouble. A quick warning for now. Stern action will be taken against the violators.” Soon after the warning, the post was deleted.

Soft Targets
May 13: 
Actress Sruthi Hariharan’s images were morphed and put out on various social media websites. She filed a complaint with cyber crime police.
May 3:
Andhra Pradesh police, with the help of city police, arrested software engineer Waseem (29) who morphed a woman’s photo and circulated the nude images on his fake Facebook page.
Jan 2016: 
Jeevan Bima Nagar police arrested 23-year-old Hamid Ali from Chennai for blackmailing his Facebook friend by morphing her photograph to demand money.

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