A Bengaluru police investigation into an investment scam targeting a 40-year-old woman in the city has uncovered a complex web of fraud, with connections to over 2,000 cases involving Rs 158 crore, registered on the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (NCRP). The woman was defrauded of Rs 18.75 lakh after being lured into a task-based fraud on WhatsApp and Telegram, promising high returns on completion of online tasks against investments between August and September 2023.
The case has led to the arrest of nine individuals, including three stock market traders, a bar dancer from Mumbai, an HR recruiter from Bengaluru, and a real estate dealer from Hyderabad. Additionally, the investigation has revealed connections between Indian nationals who alternate between Dubai and Mumbai, with two identities established but not yet arrested.
Further investigations revealed that the money transferred by the woman had been distributed to 12 separate accounts in major Indian banks. These accounts were opened in the names of different individuals, with one account linked to temporary Hyderabad and permanent Bengaluru addresses. Four men were arrested in Bengaluru for providing the addresses for the suspect bank accounts in Hyderabad.
The breakthrough in the case came when the Bengaluru police connected the suspect bank accounts in Hyderabad to local addresses in Bengaluru. By tracking down suspects, they were able to make significant progress in uncovering the full extent of the fraud network. This led to the arrest of a real estate businessman in Hyderabad who revealed the process of creating new bank accounts and transferring materials to Mumbai.
With each arrest, the investigation uncovered a network of individuals receiving commissions for providing bank accounts, SIM cards, and ID data to other actors in the scam. Tracing the flow of funds, the investigation revealed that the money transferred to Indian accounts was eventually drawn in Dubai by the main operators of the fraud.
The investigation has established that the 30 bank accounts linked to the Bengaluru case are connected to 2,143 cases reported on the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal involving a total fraud of Rs 158 crore. In light of these findings, the Bengaluru Police Commissioner, B Dayananda, emphasized the need for comprehensive efforts to address cybercrime and financial fraud.
This case is not an isolated incident, as similar investigations have been conducted in other cities. In a similar investigation in Hyderabad in July 2023, it was revealed that 15,000 victims were cheated of Rs 712 crore through 113 bank accounts created for fake companies as part of a fraud network linked to Dubai-based operators. Additionally, a terror funding link was uncovered, with fraudulently acquired funds allegedly diverted to crypto wallets linked to the Hezbollah group.
The widespread nature of these investment scams highlights the need for cross-border cooperation and comprehensive measures to address financial fraud and cybercrime. As authorities continue to unravel the intricate web of fraudulent schemes, it is essential to remain vigilant and proactive in combating these criminal activities.