Kerala: Cyber Frauds Spike Despite Campaigns and Awareness
The number of online scams is increasing in Kerala, and surprisingly professional and senior citizens are being targeted. As per the report of the Cyber Operations wing of the Kerala Police, 150 online fraud cases have been filed this year. The state residents reportedly lose Rs 70 lakh per day to different forms of online scams.
The number of cases across the country, both under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Information Technology (IT) Act, has registered an increase, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report. The number of cases increased by 5.9%, from 50,035 cases in 2020 to 52,974 in 2021, as per the report. The state also has recorded a similar pattern of cases.
The government of Kerala formed a separate unit for cyber-related complaints to investigate, prevent and create awareness about online scams. Still, people continue to be duped by fraudsters under the guise of offering jobs, providing loans and several forms of phishing.
The cyber police wing receives around 80 daily complaints about online scams of one form or another. In a recent incident, a state government official was duped of Rs 1 lakh by a man posing as a Centre Reserve Police Force (CRPF) official looking for a house to rent.
On condition of anonymity, an officer of the cyber offences wing told NewsClick, "The fraudsters use different modes to loot money from the public, through loan apps, offering jobs, among others. Though several forms of cyber fraud prevail, most cases are related to money theft.”
As per the data published by the NCRB for 2021, the number of cyber crimes increased from 426 in 2020 to 625 in 2021. The number of cases in 2022, as per the website of Kerala Police, is 815 (provisional number). The department has put the total number of offences in the current year at 372, which includes 150 cases of online scams.
The cyber offences department has offices in all the districts to ensure the prevention and investigation of cases. But, despite repeated cautions and the conduct of awareness programs, the number of cases has not registered any reduction.
"The cyber offences through social media platforms and with the help of students, police create awareness of such crimes. But people are falling for the fraudsters repeatedly,” the officer said.
The recovery of money remains a challenge since the amount looted is transferred to multiple accounts and then withdrawn. The process becomes more complex as most beneficiary account owners are unaware of their accounts being used for fraudulent activities.
"A large percentage of accounts are based in North Indian states. Those unaware of such activities hand over their account number and essential credentials to the offenders. We try to track the money by tracing the IP address and previous transactions,” the officer elaborated.
Kochi, with a population of more than 20 lakhs, is categorised as a metropolitan city and accounted for 62 online scams in 2021, with a crime rate of 2.9% (per case per million population).
"Most people are registering complaints of different frauds, helping the police to swing into action immediately. Those caught in issues like the honey trap are refraining from complaining, citing backlash. This is another modus operandi, and hence all those affected must register their complaints,” the officer requested.
The primary motives of cyber crimes include fraud, sexual exploitation and extortion. Those affected by fraud are advised to register complaints at the earliest to enable the police to investigate the crimes.
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