Cyber criminals cheated people of ₹854 cr, Bengaluru police say after busting fraud cyber investment racket

Money mules helped the fraudsters to transfer money using different bank accounts opened in different Indian states.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Sep 30, 2023 | 6:46 PMUpdatedSep 30, 2023 | 6:46 PM

Investment scam in Bengaluru

The Bengaluru City Police have busted a cyber investment fraud racket that cheated people across the country of ₹854 crore, using 84 bank accounts.

Six people, who facilitated transactions through the accounts, were arrested, the Central Crime Branch (CCB) said on Saturday, 30 September, adding that a few accounts holding a total deposit of ₹5 crore have been frozen.

Thousands of people across India, who were lured with promises of easy cash, fell victim to the multi-crore scam. The scamsters allegedly offered huge returns on low investments.

A senior police official told South First that it was a case of economic offence involving cyber frauds, who approached the people and conned them into investing in the scheme.

Used WhatsApp, Telegram

The gang lured the victims through messaging platforms WhatsApp and Telegram. They were initially asked to invest smaller amounts ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹10,000, and promised a daily profit of ₹1,000 to ₹5,000.

Once convinced, thousands of people invested money ranging from ₹1 lakh to ₹10 lakh or more, the officer said.

The CCB identified the arrested six as Manoj, Phanindhra, Chakradhar, Srinivas, Somashekar, and Vashanth, all residents of Bengaluru.

Three others, alleged to be the masterminds, managed to evade arrest. The police said the gang had international links that helped in transferring the pelf.

Efforts were on to apprehend the remaining suspects.

Out of the total amount collected by cheating, only ₹5 crore has been frozen, the police said, adding that in Bengaluru alone, the gang cheated victims of ₹49 lakh.

City Police Commissioner B Dayananda said the CCB successfully detected “very interesting” cybercrime. The criminals cheated certain individuals by luring them with offers of high rates of interest on their “investment”.

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The modus operandi

Explaining the modus operandi, he said the accused contacted victims through WhatsApp, Telegram accounts and other social media platforms. After gaining their trust by offering high returns, the accused made the victims deposit money. However, they returned neither the money nor the promised interest.

The CCB investigation revealed that 5,013 similar cases of cyber investment fraud have been registered across the country. In Bengaluru city, 17 such cases have been registered at different police stations, the commissioner said.

“The accused transacted the cheated amount of ₹854 crore through 84 different bank accounts,” he added.

The CCB has been working on the case for three months, the police said, adding that the investigators tracked the culprits using technical surveillance and other vital leads.

The invested money was parked in different bank accounts through online payments. However, after investing, the victims could not withdraw the amount, Dayananda said.

Also read: ‘Mumbai Police will clear your name in money-laundering case’

What is money muling?

Once the amount was collected, the accused diverted the money to mule accounts, he said.

“Money muling is a type of money laundering. A money mule is a person who receives money from a third party in their bank account and transfers it to another one or takes it out in cash and gives it to someone else, obtaining a commission for it,” according to Europol (European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation), the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

The ill-gotten ₹854 crore was transferred through Biance, a cryptocurrency exchange, gaming apps, and others, the officer said.

The police said the 84 bank accounts were opened in different states. Some of these accounts were opened using fake addresses and identities. They also used genuine bank accounts of some people by paying them a commission.

The arrested people played different roles in the scam, the police said. While some identified and approached their targets through WhatsApp and Telegram, others arranged bank accounts for depositing and transferring the money.

Several electronic gadgets such as laptops, mobile phones, printers, and swiping machines were recovered from the accused, the police said.

(With PTI inputs)