For 17 nights in a row, a 23-year-old woman slept on her bed in her rented Faridabad home with the laptop facing her – and a Skype video call surveilling her every single snore, every movement.
The Skype call followed her to the kitchen, watched her work, weep, nap, eat, and drink water, every day for 17 days. This was not a scene from a 24X7 reality game show with a fat prize at the end of the season.
This was the plight of a 23-year-old college student, who was forced to remain indoors and under surveillance for 17 days by men who posed as customs and police officials. The men also allegedly amassed ₹2.5 lakh from her, after they convinced her that an illegal package, linked to her Aadhaar number, on its way to Cambodia, had been stalled by the customs officials.
A case under sections 419 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code and sections of the Information Technology Act was registered at the cyber crime police station on Tuesday.
It all started on October 12 when the woman received a call from a person, allegedly posing as a customs official in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow. “The person said that the customs department had seized a parcel, connected to her Aadhar number, which was being sent to Cambodia, and it contained a few passports and that ₹3.5 crore had been deposited in her account by people involved in human trafficking,” said Amit Yashwardhan, deputy commissioner of police (NIT).
The accused told her that a case was being registered against her and the only way to escape was if she registers a case first against unknown persons, said police.
“The accused then put her in touch with men posing as senior police officials on Skype. They were in police uniform. These accused then asked her to submit ₹2.5 lakh as fee for filing an FIR, which they said was refundable,” said Yashwardhan.
“The suspects forced her to join Skype under threat of police action and told her that she would have to pay the ₹3.5 crore that was transferred to her account. They constantly called her and kept a watch on her activities. They would send her links and videos on a messaging app, which she said she was forced to click on,” said Yashwardhan.
The woman lived alone and did not inform her family about this, said police. “She grew suspicious when she kept seeing the same backdrop in all the calls, and that’s when she realised that she had fallen prey to a cyber scam,” said Yashwardhan.
The woman reported the incident to the NIT cyber crime police station on November 1. “The victim had received the call through interactive voice response (IVR) system and it was found that the call was made from another country. It was a computer-generated number,” said the DCP.
In the last few months, several such complaints have surfaced, with the police identifying the modus operandi. “They collect data and then call victims posing as executives of international courier services. The suspects tell the victims that a parcel containing drugs or passports has been sent in their name,” said Yashwardhan
The victims are then asked to talk to “police personnel” on Skype, who then make them transfer funds. “We have observed that the criminals usually used the name of IPS officers who have served in the area of cyber crime for credibility,” he said.