Online frauds: Telecom operators on police radar

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Sep 2017 10:24:27


By Dheeraj Fartode,

Citizens lose Rs 67 lakh in online frauds in just three months

Nagpur city alone has recorded online frauds involving Rs 67 lakh, in just three months. If one considers the country, the money involved in such frauds must have been a huge sum. This raises an important question -- What aided the fraudsters to dupe people? Nagpur City Police establishment feels that issuance of SIM cards by Telecom Service Providers without verification of user details, could be one reason. Negligence on part of TSPs is proving costly for citizens. SIM cards used in online crimes are obtained fraudulently by criminals with ease as TSPs are not properly verifying the user details.

Nagpur Police has learnt this during investigation of 282 online frauds reported in last three months. The police have lodged a complaint with Department of Telecommunication (DoT) accusing the TSPs of non-compliance to the norms of proper verification of user details.

After studying the menace, Cyber Complaint Cell (C3) of Nagpur Police has written a letter to the DoT seeking stern action against TSPs for negligence in this regard. Interestingly, these TSPs do not include Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). Not a single SIM card of BNSL was found to have been issued by accepting fake or forged documents, indicating a mechanism of strict check of documents and user details.

In-charge of Cyber Cell API Vishal Mane told ‘The Hitavada’ that the letter was sent to DoT last week seeking stern action against TSPs concerned. The C3 received 282
complaints of online frauds in last three months. During investigation, Cyber Cell learnt that the SIM cards used to commit the crimes were issued by TSPs by accepting fake or forged documents.

As per the analysis of Cyber Cell, the fraudsters had obtained 67 SIM cards of Vodafone, followed by 31 of Airtel, 26 of Idea, nine each of Reliance and Tata Docomo, eight of Uninor, and seven of Aircel. The TSPs concerned did not properly verify the user details and documents submitted by the applicants, reveals the Cyber Cell analysis.

“We have scanned Call Data Records (CDR) of the mobile numbers of the accused and found that they got SIM cards issued by submitting bogus documents,” API Mane said. “We sent several requests to the TSPs to check the menace. However, not a single operator took the matter seriously, and continued flouting the guidelines of DoT and TRAI regarding proper verification of user details,” he said.

Another officer said that the Jamtara district in Jharkhand is the den of online fraudsters. These racketeers are getting SIM cards activated in a bulk. After using a SIM card for a week, the fraudsters destroy it and use another SIM card so that they cannot be located by Mobile Surveillance System.
API Mane said that SIM cards were provided by TSPs without proper verification. This not only poses a serious security threat but also encourages malpractice in telecom sector, he added.

How do fraudsters use SIM cards?

The fraudsters committing online frauds dial random mobile numbers by using these SIM cards and introduce the phone receiver as bank employee asking Debit card details of the person receiving the call. After getting the details, the fraudsters transfer the amount from the victim’s account to various online wallet companies. When police start investigation, they find address of the SIM card user different from the mobile tower location. Hence, it becomes a difficult task for police to identify real culprits and prove their involvement in the crime.

Provisions in the law
The mobile distributor and mobile user can be booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code. These include Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (punishment for forgery), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), 471 (using something forged as genuine), 473 (making or possessing counterfeit seal, etc., with intent to commit forgery punishable otherwise) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

It may be mentioned that the Supreme Court in Avishek Goenka Vs. Union of India & Anr case found mobile service provider also to be in blatant non-compliance of the verification standards as required to be observed by the service providers. The decision was delivered on April 27, 2012. However, the telecom operators did not bother about the Supreme Court observation and continued flouting the norms.