By Shekhar Singh
After Jamtara, the Mewat region spread over three states -- Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh -- is the new ground zero of cyber scamming.
The new satellite towns and villages that are spread across in the region are mounting countless scams on hapless cellphone owners across the country.
Steps ahead from Jamtara cyber thugs, the scammers in Mewat region, falling under three states' jurisdictions, also keep the police on their toes.
Sextortion is their new skill and they leave no stone unturned to churn out money from innocent people after threatening and blackmailing the victims of uploading their morphed pictures and videos online.
Catching one scammer doesn't end the problem as 10 others pop up and they are even trained in the Mewat villages by the akkas.
Now, the modus operandi of scammers is so popular among the youngsters in the region that this has become predominantly a leaderless crime racket.
There are no kingpins and just a smartphone and a SIM is needed to scam and blackmail.
Delhi Police are also now keeping an eye on the young scammers operating from the Mewat region after several cases of scams revealed that the cyber cheats were operating from the region.
Not only sextortion, the Mewat scammers also lure people through OLX in which they pretend to sell possessions on the online marketplace and then either physically lure victims to the pick-up locations or scam them virtually.
These scammers have not even spared Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Pragya Thakur and a Shiv Sena MLA.
Unlike Kolkata's phishing industry, which has office buildings and call centres, the Mewat scam is a bit of an unstructured cottage industry.
The Mewat gang's modus operandi is quite different. The scammers also include truck drivers, who are natives of the region.
"The truck drivers make suspicious calls from non-descript highways using fake SIM cards," said a police officer.
Recently, even the Delhi High Court said that it is saddening to see people are not aware that once they give access to their contacts and images to an app they have downloaded on their mobile phones, the developer, in case of being a criminal, misuses images, morphs them and sends them in inappropriate form to their social contacts, and thereafter, blackmails the users.
The observations came while dismissing the bail plea of a man accused of extorting lakhs of rupees from several people by morphing pictures stored in their mobiles, and sending them to their relatives.
"In case such criminals are not dealt with a heavy hand and are enlarged on bail while there is material on record to show transactions have taken place from their mobile phones or computers and inappropriate morphed images of people have been sent and they have been blackmailed, it may send a wrong signal to society that such offences can be committed and one can get away with these easily," said Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma.
The cyber thugs learn just five or six lines in English. Those who are not educated to continue in the language easily switch to Hindi after the first few sentences and continue to dupe people.
As per credible sources, around 300-400 people are duped on a daily basis and each fraudster earns up to Rs 3,000 daily.
The three districts together expand to 150 villages that report more than 8,000 cybercrimes, looting nearly Rs 1.6 to 2.4 crore from people.
The IANS team visited the Mewat region and spoke to a recently-released scammer at Jurehra village in Mewat region.
Amzad (34) said that to lure victims on OLX, most commonly they opt to use fake identity of some defence personnel and concoct a believable but fabricated story about distress.
"An ad is placed on OLX to sell a bike, mobile phone but their prices are so low that people can be easily lured. Whenever we get a reply on our ad, for example if a mobile phone is on sale, to lure victims, the scammers say that the phone is around two months old and being a defence personnel, no one doubts," said Amzad.
"To avoid face to face interaction, the scammers give their location around 300 km away from the victim's location," he said.
"The next step is to lure the victim with an impression of being a defence personnel, talking politely and telling them that the phone would be couriered to gain the trust and they can be then duped after asking them to pay the money in advance including the courier fee," said Amzad.