How a Rajasthan farmer took on cybercriminals sans police help

How a Rajasthan farmer took on cybercriminals sans police help

Pawan Kumar Soni lost ₹8 lakh within minutes thanks to a phishing message; read how he got back his money

A plucky, determined farmer from Rajasthan, who became a victim of cyber fraud losing more than ₹8 lakh within minutes, doggedly pursued the money trail and managed to trace and retrieve most of it back. However, it was largely due to his own sleuthing efforts without police help that the farmer managed to track down and recover most of his money from the cybercriminals.

Pawan Kumar Soni, a 55-year-old farmer, who is based in Sri Ganganagar City in Rajasthan, became a victim of a cyber fraud, when his son Harsh Vardhan (26 years) opened a link from a phishing message that flashed on his mobile phone. Within minutes, more than ₹8 lakh was withdrawn from his account through four different transactions.

Vardhan, who lives in Dwarka, Delhi, had his phone number registered with his father’s account at the State Bank of India branch of Sri Ganganagar City. It all started on Saturday, January 7 at 3.45 pm, when Harsh Vardhan received a message, which was delivered on his mobile which said, “Your account is blocked, please update your KYC.”

KYC updation

Harsh already had a YONO application but the moment he clicked on the link, another duplicate app downloaded on his phone. “I thought that I should update my KYC on this new app so I entered my user ID and password. Suddenly, I started receiving messages for the withdrawal of money from my father’s account and in seven minutes, we lost ₹8,03,899,” Vardhan said.

Later on, he realised that with the help of the duplicate app, his phone was hacked and the user ID and password that he had entered, were accessed by a cyber fraud sitting somewhere else. The money swindled was a loan that his father had taken under Kisan Credit Card Scheme for farming purposes.

Also read: Rajasthan police warns youth on cyber crimes using dialogues from ‘3 Idiots’

Vardhan called his father in Ganganagar City, who rushed to the bank to inform the manager. Vardhan went to the district cyber cell in Dwarka, where he was asked to lodge an online complaint and visit the office on any working day.

The bank manager, at the request of Harsh Vardhan’s father, acted swiftly and called the local cyber cell. The manager also sent an email to financial institutions to get those accounts blocked in which the money was transferred.

Soni said, “The manager informed me that money went from my account to three accounts – ₹5 lakh and ₹1.24 lakh went into PayU, ₹1,54,899 was transferred into CCAvenue, and the rest ₹25,000 went into Axis Bank.”

Payment collection

Both PayU and CCAvenue are digital payment companies that act as a bridge between customers and business ventures. They collect payments from buyers when they make online purchases and deliver these to the merchants bank accounts.

“The bank manager informed me that PayU reverted to his email and said that it withheld the money. It also said that if it wouldn’t receive any email from the cybercrime department within two days for the reversal of the amount, it would release the money into the merchant’s account,” Soni alleged.

CCAvenue said that it also responded to the cyber officials and provided all information on January 7, when the company came to know about the said fraud.

Also read: Delhi Police busts international cyber fraud gang duping job aspirants with WFH roles, 4 held

On the other hand, his son Vardhan made an online complaint and, two days later, on January 9, Monday, went to lodge an FIR which was denied. “Then I met the additional DCP who directed the SHO to lodge an FIR. Finally, it was lodged on January 10, three days after the fraud happened,” he said.

Vardhan then requested the Dwarka Cyber Cell to email PayU asking it to remit the money back into his father’s account. “The police personnel made only hollow promises and did nothing,” Vardhan alleged. His father then approached the cyber cell of Ganganagar City. They wrote to PayU and he got back ₹6,24,000 money into his account.

But, Soni was not giving up yet and was adamant to track the money trail in Axis Bank and CCAvenue. “On my request, my relatives’ friends who are digital finance professionals tracked it and found that ₹25,000 that went into Axis bank was withdrawn from an ATM in Kolkata,” Soni said.

“Another ₹1,54,899, which was transferred to CCAvenue, ₹1,20,000 of that money was used by the fraudster to buy some stuff from a Jio store in Kolkata,” Soni said, adding, he spoke to the concerned police station in Kolkata. But, they told him that unless they would get it in writing from Delhi Police, they would not do anything.

Slow police action

Meanwhile, he alleged that during all this time, he and his son kept telling Dwarka’s cyber cell to write to Axis Bank, CCAvenue and Kolkata Police but they kept stalling him and did it only on January 23, which was too late.

“I have found out his name and address as well,” Soni said, alleging that such fraudsters register themselves as merchants with digital payment companies, which don’t do proper due diligence while checking their KYC. “When I can find the money trail, why can’t the police? They can do it more quickly and easily,” Soni pointed out.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Dwarka, Harsha Vardhan told PTI that Delhi Police receive a large number of complaints on ICMS (Integrated Complaint Management System) portal regularly.

“We process them and seek details from the concerned agencies/institutions. In the present case, the complaint was received on January 9 in the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (NCRP) and FIR was registered on January 10. Account details were sought from bank. On receiving the details, mails were sent. There is always scope to improve and do things faster but we also face delays from banks in getting details,” Harsha Vardhan said.

Fintech experts say that since the end customer is the worst affected victim of phishing scams, its natural to expect them to be more vigilant. However, the payment networks and banks also have a big responsibility by not allowing such accounts to be set up and operate.

“Adopting stringent KYC procedures will enable financial institutions to quickly map fraudulent money and to hold the money at their end,” Satyam Kumar, a former banker who heads a digital NBFC, LoanTap, said.

With agency inputs

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