The Cyber Mules


Bengaluru police probing cyber crimes are constantly coming up against a wall as crooks use bank accounts of gullible people for a fee

Babu will never forget 2020. And his reasons for remembering — and regretting — annus horribilis are very different from that of other Bengalureans. Not only did he lose his job due to the pandemic, he also ended up in jail for striving to provide for his wife and two kids.

The 35-year-old class seven dropout from a small village in North Karnataka fell for a ‘recharge’ scam as he was promised some money — Rs 3,000 for every Rs 1 lakh processed — for doing very little.

“Last year around the same time, I had lost my job and was not being able to take care of my wife and two infants. Day by day things were getting difficult for me. It was at that time that I heard that my friend Anand, who had also lost his job, had started to earn some money through his mobile while sitting at home. He told me that he was helping his friend ‘recharge’ his bank account and was earning a commission in return. Hearing of my struggle, he offered the job to me as well.

He told me that all I had to do was to share my bank account details with his friend who works in a company which does a lot of transactions online. I was supposed to wait for the amount to be deposited in my account and immediately transfer it to Anand’s account who would then transfer it to a different bank account. I would take Rs 3,000 for every Rs 1 lakh that came into my account and transferred the rest to Anand,” Babu told Bangalore Mirror after being released from Parappana Agrahara prison last month. (Babu is not his real name; his lawyer allowed Bangalore Mirror to speak to him only on the condition that we would not identify him.)

Babu said that since Anand had told him that he was working with his friend, he trusted him blindly and did not ask too many questions as he was “getting money in hand”. “Anand had also included our other friend, Kamal, who had also lost his job. All of us had opened our bank accounts while we were working in Bengaluru and had returned to our hometowns after we lost our jobs. Anand knew this and had informed his friend who was in Mumbai.

For almost one year we did several transactions and we had given a break for six months in between but last week, police landed outside our door. They

informed me that Kamal had been caught and the amount was transferred from his account to mine. From my account again it was transferred to Anand who was also arrested along with me. I did not know why they were arresting me; they took both my mobiles and my debit cards.”

He claimed that it was only later that he found out Anand knew that his friend was taking money from people by cheating them online. “But Anand never informed me,” he said.

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Both Babu and Anand spent a week in Parappana Agrahara central prison in March.

Anand’s arrest came a week after his wedding. He told Bangalore Mirror: “I do not know the person’s real name but he befriended me through a WhatsApp call. I had met with an accident last year and was admitted in the hospital for several days. He got my number through Facebook and told me that he would help me and sent me Rs 30,000 for my treatment. I was very grateful to him as he helped me at the time when I had lost my job and had no money to pay for the treatment.

He later discussed about recharging bank accounts and told me he would pay me some commission. He asked me to get my friends as well and that is why I approached them after the lockdown. I did not have any direct involvement and he also never discussed who was depositing money into our accounts. Every time, I was asked to transfer to different accounts and he would repeatedly call me if the transaction was delayed.”

A senior officer said that it is the duty of individuals to check and alert the bank if money from an unknown source gets deposited into their accounts. “No one will give you money for free and it goes without saying that if there are illegal transactions in somebody’s account and yet they continue to do it for commission, that makes them equally guilty of the crime.

The prime accused who has a hidden bank account would have transferred the money through several such bank accounts and would have closed the account after withdrawing the money. These people are being used; they do not realise that cyber criminals are using their credentials to commit the crime and getting away with it whereas these people are the ones who are getting caught,” the officer said.

Another officer said that there have been cases where ‘agents’ of cyber crooks have been coaxing their friends to open multiple accounts for a commission of Rs 4,000. These friends are usually kept in the dark about the need for such accounts.

“In one case, bank accounts of several people from the northeast were used for cyber fraud. These people had been doing odd jobs in the city and had bank accounts in their hometowns. The crooks also created accounts using credentials of their friends. Someone was using their accounts to make big transactions. People should be careful and not share their credentials with anyone,” he said.

Sage advice but the lockdown and the job losses helped cyber crooks find the perfect, vulnerable and gullible cohort — laid-off blue collar workers desperate to earn a buck, no questions asked.



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Sagar Biswas

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