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International Cybercrime Ring Busted: Pig Butchering, Cyber Slavery, Stock & Passport Fraud Uncovered

Rourkela Police unravel an international cyber crime web involving cyber slavery, stock fraud, and passport forgery, urging vigilance in online investments

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International Cybercrime Ring Busted: Pig Butchering, Cyber Slavery, Stock & Passport Fraud Uncovered
Rourkela Police's Success: Breaking the Chains of International Cyber Crime Syndicate - Representative Image - AI Generated

ODISHA: In a major breakthrough, Rourkela Police have unearthed a sophisticated international cybercrime operation with tentacles reaching across India and beyond. The complex web of deceit involved cyber slavery, stock market manipulation through a “pig butchering” scam, and even suspected passport forgery, posing a potential threat to national security.

The case unfolded after a senior central government official filed a complaint in December 2023, alleging fraud to the tune of a staggering ₹67.7 lakh. The initial investigation revealed the fingerprints of a well-organized international crime syndicate, prompting the formation of a dedicated team under the leadership of Upasana Padhi, SDPO Panposh.

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Given the intricate nature of the crime, the team sought technical assistance from the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center (I4C) under the Ministry of Home Affairs and the State Crime Branch. Their meticulous efforts led to the arrest of six key operatives and the seizure of incriminating material.

Pig Butchering and Beyond: A Modus Operandi Exposed

The arrested individuals believed to be top-rung members of the syndicate, employed a sophisticated modus operandi to dupe hundreds of unsuspecting victims across India. Over 210 complaints were identified, with hotspots in Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana, and several other states.

The mastermind, Ujjwal from Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, along with his accomplice Pankaj Rao, even travelled to Cambodia to provide foreign nationals with Indian SIM cards and “mule” bank accounts – accounts used to launder ill-gotten gains. These SIM cards were procured in the name of a fictitious Sandeep Jain, further adding to the web of deceit.

To lure victims, the syndicate created a fake mobile app called “Indira Securities,” masquerading as a legitimate stock trading platform. The app displayed real-time stock prices, effectively cloaking the underlying scam. Operatives stationed in Cambodia would then contact potential victims in India, enticing them with promises of high returns on their investments. Once hooked, the app would artificially inflate profits, further fueling the illusion.

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However, the moment victims attempted to withdraw their funds, the house of cards would crumble. The app would abruptly stop payouts, marking the culmination of the “pig butchering” scam – a cruel analogy for the slow and methodical manipulation of victims.

International Connections and a Web of Secrecy

The investigation revealed a web of international connections, with data from banks pointing to IP addresses in Cambodia and Abu Dhabi. The accused actively participated in Telegram and WhatsApp groups with individuals from countries bordering India, suggesting a coordinated cross-border operation.

One of the arrested individuals, Mohammed Naseem, had a prior brush with the law, having been arrested in 2022 for his involvement in the Mahadev Betting app scam. Ujjwal, the main culprit, was also known for creating betting apps and was a frequent traveller to Dubai, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.

Adding to the gravity of the situation, the Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, had issued a 2023 advisory regarding criminal syndicates operating in the country, notorious for their involvement in financial scams and cyber slavery. Ujjwal was reportedly in contact with a manpower agent in Cambodia, potentially seeking fresh recruits for a suspected scam call center.

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Unraveling the Threads and Securing Justice

The Rourkela Police investigation is still in its early stages, with further inquiries ongoing. The team has secured crucial data on the fake Indian SIM cards and has requested telecom operators to take necessary action. Banks and cryptocurrency platforms have also been approached for technical insights into the case.

Furthermore, the police are actively informing various law enforcement agencies across the country about the syndicate’s activities. The identification of the foreign national ring leader is a significant development, paving the way for further action at the appropriate level.

Protecting Yourself from Cyber Predators

This case serves as a stark reminder of the ever-present threat of cybercrime. To safeguard yourself, remember the following:

  • Never trust random online advertisements: Be wary of unsolicited investment offers or pop-ups promising quick riches.
  • Beware of “too good to be true” investment schemes: If returns seem unreasonably high, they probably are.
  • Always verify account details before investing: Do not transfer money to unknown accounts.
  • Exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar individuals: Verify their credentials before engaging in any financial transactions.
  • Report cybercrime immediately: If you suspect you are being targeted, call the national helpline 1930 or report the incident online at www.cybercrime.gov.in.

By staying vigilant and informed, we can collectively combat the growing menace of cybercrime and protect ourselves from falling prey to these sophisticated scams.

 

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