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Cyber Criminals use Aadhaar to Steal Money From People in Himachal Pradesh

An investigation has revealed that the offenders used Aadhaar cards of Nepalese people and labourers from Bihar and Jharkhand to procure SIMs and craete bank accounts to dupe people.
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Aadhaar cards of Nepalese people and migrants labourers have been misused by cyber criminals in five to 10% of the cyber fraud cases in the past two years in Himachal Pradesh, The Tribune reported. It adds to the spate of incidents where scammers are misusing Aadhaar information.

Amid the confusion around Aadhaar after the Union  Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Sunday withdrew an advisory issued by the Aadhaar agency, the cyber crimes using Aadhaar gain further import. The advisory had directed people to not share photocopies of the document with entities such as hotels and cinema halls owing to the possibility of “misuse”. Issued on Friday by the regional office of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in Bengaluru, it said citizens should share their Aadhaar details only with entities that have a “user licence” from UIDAI. However, It did not specify how to verify this user licence.

On Sunday, while withdrawing the advisory citing possibility for misinterpretations, the ministry said Aadhaar holders are “advised to exercise normal prudence in using and sharing” their Aadhaar details. This again did not explain what it meant by “normal prudence”. 

The latest investigation by The Tribune into cyber crime cases in Himachal Pradesh revealed that the offenders used Aadhaar cards of Nepalese people and labourers from Bihar and Jharkhand to procure SIMs. They then created online bank accounts by submitting the stolen KYC (Know Your Client) details, and the accounts were used to dupe people.

Narvir Singh Rathore, ASP, cyber crime, Shimla, told The Tribune that the miscreantask for bank account details of people on the pretext of depositing money and then send them a link. As the victim clicks on the link, the scammer get access to their phones and money is transferred from their accounts.

As many as 12,665 cyber complaints were received in the past two years (2020 and 2021) and 320 FIRs were registered, according to the report. Of these, about 50% of the complaints relate to financial frauds whereas 30-35% to social networks.

In a similar defrauding trend the criminals are targeting hoteliers, shopkeepers and coaching centres. Details of Facebook pages of hotels in Himachal are changed to take advance money from customers making advance bookings. Besides, coaching centres are called by fraudsters pretending to get admission, and shopkeepers are called for home delivery of items. The process of the miscreants getting access to the victims’ gadgets like mobile phones and computers is the same by sending a link.

The miscreants use Google to search for potential victims and lay traps after gathering information about them. As many as 50 such cases have already been reported this year, the ASP told the newspaper.

Sources told The Tribune that FIRs are registered in only two or three percent cases as people are mostly concerned about refund of their money and fear social stigma in other cases. 

In April, The Tribune had reported a disturbing trend wherein cyber criminals were preying on tourists searching for hotels online in Himachal Pradesh. The miscreants were hacking into websites and changing the details of hotels to dupe tourists. Even details such as email address and phone numbers on the Google pages of hotels were reportedly changed to trap tourists.

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