Sextortion on the rise; Mewat continues to be nerve centre of scammers

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Sextortion on the rise; Mewat continues to be nerve centre of scammers
New Delhi:  A 50-year-old Mewat-based man, who sextorted several people, especially senior citizens, was recently arrested from the Bharatpur area in Rajasthan and 140 videos, and screenshots of victims were found in the eight mobile phones recovered from his possession.

“In one of the mobile phones, some chats with the victims were also recovered. The accused was using pictures of senior officers of the Delhi Police as WhatsApp display pictures,” said an official.

The arrest was made after a complaint was received by the Delhi Police from one senior citizen Moolchand Garg, who claimed that he had received an unknown WhatsApp video call in which a girl was sitting undressed and thereafter the call was disconnected.

In his complaint, Garg said that the girl took a screenshot with his face and after some time, he received calls from two other numbers, claiming to be from the cybercrime division in Delhi. They threatened the victim to pay a substantial amount, or else the screenshot would be quickly circulated, leading to his arrest.

This incident sheds light on the escalating cybercrime scenario in the Mewat region, comprising areas in Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

Law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that Mewat might follow in the footsteps of Jamtara and continue to be a hotspot for cyber criminals in 2024.

Mewat’s cybercrime operations distinguish themselves through an unstructured cottage industry. Unlike organised phishing networks seen elsewhere, this region operates as a leaderless crime racket, with minimal tools required for scams and blackmail — just a smartphone and a SIM card.

Delhi Police are closely monitoring the activities of these young scammers from Mewat, recognizing a growing trend of cyber cheats emerging from the region.

A senior police official highlighted the challenge of tracking scammers, particularly truck drivers native to the region, who use fake SIM cards to make suspicious calls along nondescript highways, seamlessly switching between English and Hindi.

Reports indicate that approximately 300-400 individuals fall victim to these scams daily, with each fraudster earning up to Rs 3,000. Three districts within the Mewat region — Bharatpur (Rajasthan), Nuh (Haryana) and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) –collectively report over 8,000 cybercrimes, resulting in financial losses ranging from Rs 1.6 to 2.4 crore, as per Delhi Police sources.

In a similar case in November last year, a 22-year-old man was arrested for posing as a police officer and defrauding senior citizens by displaying explicit videos of young women on WhatsApp calls, and subsequently extorting the victims by capturing screenshots of their mobile screens.

The accused was identified as Rizwan, a resident of Deeg district in Rajasthan. He used to pose as Vikram Rathore, ACP in the Crime Branch.

The name ‘Vikram Rathore’ is frequently used by cyber cheats, likely inspired by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar’s role as ACP Vikram Rathore in the movie “Rowdy Rathore.”

Recent data from the National Crime Record Bureau for 2022 reveals a disturbing surge in cybercrimes across the country — a 24.4 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Fraud accounts for the majority of cases at 64.8 per cent, emphasising the urgent need for strengthened cybersecurity measures and increased public awareness to combat the growing threat of cybercriminal activities in India.

In 2024, the question remains whether Mewat will continue to be the epicentre of cybercrime or if concerted efforts can curb this rising menace.

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