As Bengaluru accounts for 1212 of the 1685 identity theft cases that were reported in 19 major cities nationwide last year, the city is now dubbed India’s IT (identity theft) capital.
On August 6 of last year, K Muralidhar, the High Court of Karnataka’s Public Relations Officer, received some WhatsApp messages urging him to purchase certain gift cards.
The phone number that sent the messages had a picture of the High Court’s acting Chief Justice as its “Display Picture.” Muralidhar complied and paid Rs 90,000 online for nine gift cards that were each worth Rs 10,000.
However, he didn’t receive any of the gift cards, and he quickly discovered that the WhatsApp messages had actually been sent by cybercriminals who had merely tricked him using the image of the acting Chief Justice.
The Sahitya Akademi president Chandrasekhara Kambar’s relatives and acquaintances were shocked earlier this year when they got a WhatsApp message from the renowned writer and poet requesting for immediate financial support to help him deal with an emergency.
Some of them made contact with Kambar, and it soon became apparent that thief had used his picture as the “Display Picture” on an unknown phone number and sent WhatsApp messages to those who had been in touch with him on social media platforms, obviously in an effort to con the trusting ones among them into paying money.
With “IT” now referring to “identity theft,” a felony punishable under Section 66C of the Information Technology Act, Bengaluru has become known as India’s “IT capital.”
According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s most recent data, Bengaluru accounted for 1212 of the 1685 identity theft cases that were reported in 19 major cities nationwide last year. Surat came in third with 109 instances, followed by Kanpur in distant second with 119 cases.
Murugesh Nirani, the state’s minister for large and medium-sized industries, and Shankar M. Bidari, a former director general and inspector general of the Karnataka police, were two more well-known victims of similar identity theft. Many other commoners were as well.
The police officers say that it is important to view the city’s high number of identity theft cases as a good development because it encourages victims to report such crimes.
Despite the fact that many incidents are being reported, very few of them are ever solved. Most of the time, police are unable to apprehend offenders, and conviction rates are still low.
“Basically, cyber crimes are high here, because we have different kinds of population from all states. People are also fairly financially comfortable,” says M K Nagaraja, a retired police officer, who, was a victim of identity theft. “The criminals target people who have a lot of friends on social media. The policemen need proper training to investigate cyber crimes.”
The victims are now finding it simpler to report such crimes by calling 112 and taking advantage of the Cybercrime Incident Report feature, which was launched in December 2020, according to police commissioner C. H. Pratap Reddy.
“Our main focus is the conversion of the number of reports into registered crimes. We are proactively doing it,” he says.
The only approach to stop such crimes, according to Raman Gupta, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), is to introduce regulations for the issuance of SIM cards and the establishing of bank accounts.
In order to prevent the thieves from using the victims’ identities for financial advantage, the Bengaluru City Police is urging individuals to report identity theft as soon as they become aware of it.
According to Santosh Ram R, police inspector at the North-East CEN (Cyber-Economic-Narcotics) Crime station of the city, people can avoid identity theft by locking their social media accounts, using two-step authentication when logging in, and restricting who can see their WhatsApp “Display Picture” to contacts.
Criminalist and Supreme Court attorney T P Vipin is not shocked that Bengaluru is the city where the majority of identity theft cases in the nation are recorded. According to him, technology controls every aspect of city life and makes it simple for fraudsters to perpetrate crimes.
Officials from the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detained four people in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, in October 2020 for involvement in identity theft. In order to raise money, the group set up fake social media accounts in the names of well-known people, including police officers.
Ansar, Saddam, Balvinder Singh, and Saini were among those detained. Singh sold SIM cards as a distributor. To activate the SIM cards, he and Ansar would fake people’s Aadhaar cards. Saddam was receiving money into his bank accounts while Saini was producing fake Aadhaar cards. All four of the individuals are school and college dropouts.
They used to friend request potential victims using fake social media identities. Once the request was accepted, they used to ask for financial help.