Rs 35 lakh cyber fraud: Online trader & payment gateway operator arrested

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In an important breakthrough in a case of task fraud in which an IT professional was cheated of Rs 35 lakh, the Cyber crime cell of Pune police has arrested a payment gateway operator and an online trader who helped suspects convert siphoned money into cryptocurrency. A team from Cyber crime police station of Pune City was probing a case of task fraud in which a 42-year-old delivery manager working for a global IT major in Pune was cheated through an offer of a “high-paying part-time job”. During the first three weeks of April this year, the complainant was lured into making nine transactions totalling Rs 34.97 lakh with the accused promising high returns on ‘prepaid tasks.’ During the investigation, the team zeroed in on some transactions on the bank account of the payment gateway operator firm based in Mumbai. On the morning of September 14, the investigation team arrested Tushar Ajwani (37), a resident of Andheri West, for his alleged involvement in the cyber heist. Subsequently based on the details obtained from Ajwani’s questioning, the probe team identified a suspect identified as Mayur Nikam (34), an online trader and resident of Sangli district. Officials said that Nikam allegedly helped the other suspects in the racket convert the siphoned money into Tether cryptocurrency also referred to as USDT. Nikam was placed under arrest on September 16. The details of the two arrests were released to the media on Tuesday after completion of the initial probe. According to data shared by the City Cyber Crime police station of Pune City police, over 130 complaint applications related to task frauds have been received since January this year from which over 40 cases have been registered as FIRs after preliminary probes. In these cases registered as FIRs, the victims have lost over Rs 13 crore to cyber fraudsters who offered them “high returns on prepaid tasks”. In arguably the biggest such case so far with the city police, a 69-year-old retired Colonel from the Indian Army was cheated to the tune of Rs 2.4 crore in May and June earlier this year. In these task frauds, the victims initially receive messages offering money for performing tasks such as liking videos online, giving online reviews to businesses such as hotels. They are initially paid small amounts to win their trust. Later, they are told that they have been “chosen” for “higher level” tasks and are asked to pay a fee to receive ‘prepaid tasks’ that ‘will get them higher amounts as returns. The fraudsters start increasing the fee and the number of tasks required, while dangling the lure of higher returns. Finally, when the promised returns fail to materialise, and the victims realise they are being cheated, the fraudsters vanish online.

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