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COVID-19 hits ‘cyber-crime hotspots’, Pune sees fewer online fraud cases

Sushant Kulkarni
Pune coronavirus cases, COVID-19, cyber-crime hotspots, online fraud cases, Pune news, indian express news

Officials said that the picture in police jurisdictions, which had been seeing similar inflow of cyber crimes, is not very different. (Rerpesentational Image)

There has been a drastic fall in the number of cyber crime cases being reported since the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), mainly due to shutting down of fraudulent establishments in 'cyber-crime hotspots' from where these rackets are operated, said Pune City Police.

The Indian Express had reported earlier that police have observed a significant drop in the number of cases under crime heads such as burglaries and vehicle thefts, and also in the footfall of people approaching police stations with minor complaints. The drop in the number of house break-ins has been attributed to most people staying at home. The drop in the number of incidents of motor vehicle thefts has been attributed to fewer vehicles being parked at public places. But the number of body offences has remained almost unchanged.

The Cyber Crime Cell of Pune city, one of the busiest cyber-policing units in the country, had been receiving anywhere between 50 to 70 complaints every day. After primary verification, these complaints get registered as First Information Reports at Pune's dedicated cyber crime police stations or individual local police stations.

But since the last one week, the number of daily complaints received by the cell has fallen to an average of less than five.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber Crime and Economic Offences) Sambhaji Kadam said, "Every day, our cell used to receive between 50 to 70 complaints, which includes insurance frauds, online purchase frauds and cheating through social media, matrimonial and dating platforms and some other heads. This count has dropped to an average of below five since the time COVID started spreading across the country. One of the plausible explanations is people are not coming forward. But then almost no one is approaching us on phones or emails, which used to happen a lot earlier. There are some areas in the country which have been identified as hotspots of cyber crime rackets. Fraudulent call centres or IT-related services in these areas are known to be operating rackets of online frauds."

DCP Kadam added, "Some specific type of advanced fee scams have originated from districts of Rajasthan, and others from NCR and West Bengal. The arrests we have made from these areas in that past have revealed the existence of these rackets in these hotspots. We have reasons to believe that these dubious establishments have shut down since the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted into the drop in number of people being targeted. We appeal people to approach us through phone or email in case of a possible cyber crime."

Officials said that the picture in police jurisdictions, which had been seeing similar inflow of cyber crimes, is not very different.

Probes have revealed that almost all these crimes are committed from set-ups like that of a call centre or IT company, involving multiple people and callers. These people are also known to shift locations after police start cracking down on them.

Officials, however, added that staff from the Cyber Crime Cell have been keeping a close watch to keep a check on rumours and misinformation being spread on the Internet and social media platforms.