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MHA alerts against 'blackmail', 'digital arrest' by cyber criminals posing govt agency officers

New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday issued a warning about cyber criminals who are engaged in 'blackmail' and 'digital arrest' while impersonating as officers from government agencies like NCB, CBI, RBI and other Law Enforcement Agencies as well as state and Union Territory Police.

In a statement, the MHA mentioned that a large number of complaints are being reported on National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCRP) regarding intimidation, blackmail, extortion and "digital arrests" by cyber criminals posing as police authorities, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Narcotics Department, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Enforcement Directorate and other Law Enforcement Agencies.

"These fraudsters typically call a potential victim and inform that the victim has sent or is the intended recipient of a parcel, which contains illegal goods, drugs, fake passports or any other contraband item," said the MHA.

Sometimes, the Ministry said, they (the criminals) also inform that a near or dear one of the victim has been found to be involved in a crime or an accident and is in their custody.

A demand for money is made to compromise the "case", it said.

"In certain instances, unsuspecting victims are made to undergo "digital arrest" and remain visually available over Skype or other video conferencing platform to the fraudsters, till their demands are met."

The fraudsters are known to use studios modelled on police stations and government offices and wear uniforms to appear genuine, alerts the MHA.

Across the country, it further said, several victims have lost large amounts of money to such criminals.

As per the Ministry, this is an "organized online economic crime and is learnt to be operated by cross-border crime syndicates."

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), under the Ministry of Home Affairs, coordinates activities related to combating cybercrime in the country, it said.

"MHA is closely working with other Ministries and their agencies, RBI and other organizations to counter these frauds. I4C is also providing inputs and technical support to Police Authorities of States/UTs for identifying and investigating the cases," said the Ministry.

It further added that its I4C wing has also blocked more than 1,000 Skype IDs involved in such activities, in collaboration with Microsoft. "It is also facilitating blocking of SIM cards, mobile devices and Mule accounts used by such fraudsters."

"I4C has also issued various alerts through infographics and videos on its social media platform 'Cyberdost' for eg X, Facebook, Instagram and others," the MHA mentioned.

"Citizens are advised to be alert and spread awareness about these types of frauds. On receipt of such calls, the citizens should immediately report the incident on cybercrime helpline number 1930 or www.cybercrime.gov.in for assistance," it added.

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