In the second week of June, a 38-year-old businessman from Marine Drive received a phone call from an executive of the bank with which he had a credit card. The executive, on the pretext of upgrading his credit card with an offer of increasing the credit limit, obtained the card's details of Rishiraj Anandan (name changed to protect identity) — CVV number, birth date, the 16-digit credit card number and expiry date of the card, along with several one-time passwords (OTPs) generated in a short time. By the time Anandan realised that he had become the victim of an online fraud, his card had been used to purchase goods worth Rs 3.56 lakh online. Worse, the "executive" had also used the card to get an instant loan of Rs 3 lakh.
Like Anandan, Worli resident Sadashiv Uplekar (changed name) also didn't realise that the customer care executive from a bank who called him in June would dupe him of Rs 1.34 lakh in the name of updating an old debit card. Uplekar, too, shared his OTP with the executive. After finding that money was deducted from his account and spent on shopping for products which he didn't buy, he called back on the caller's number, but to only discover that they weren't available.
These do seem like any other vishing (see box: Know your scam) fraud cases, multiple numbers of which have been registered across the city's several police stations. One, minor detail aside i.e. When the Marine Drive and Worli cops — where Anandan and Uplekar registered FIRs — traced the origins of the calls and the "executives", they found that the two had, like many others in Mumbai, become victims of a vishing fraud rooted in a district called Jamtara in Jharkhand. Oh, and Jamtara is notorious across the country for these frauds — cops from the district say that police officers come visiting almost every 15 days to trace and arrest the fraudsters.
Professional fraudsters of Jamtara
The population of Jamtara, a district with 1,175 villages (of which more than 50 are involved in the scam) that was created in 2001, stands at less than 8 lakh (according to the 2011 census).
For quite a few years, fraud has been a career of sorts here. The first case was registered in 2013.
The Sub-Divisional Police Officer of the district Pujya Prakash, while speaking over the phone from Jharkhand, says, "Most of those who have been arrested claim to be farmer, who turned to cyber crime after seeing the easy cash that can be made." Prakash adds, "The villages that till five years ago had huts, are now lined with large bungalows. And there's constant competition. If one family gets a R20 lakh bungalow, another will want to trounce them by building something that costs twice or thrice that amount. And, aside from bungalows most of the other cash is spent on purchasing electronic accessories or saved in varied bank accounts."
Ironically, most of those involved in the crime have minimal schooling.