When the first six months of 2021 and 2020 each are considered (done for parity as 2021 is ongoing) and then compared with the corresponding period of the pre-Covid years 2019 and 2018, one sees a 33% rise in cybercrime in Mumbai: cases rose from 1,784 in 2018-2019 (Jan-June) to 2,374 in 2020-2021 (same months), according to the cyber cell of the city police.
Worryingly, the detection rate continues to be low, as per the released data. It has fallen by about 2% in the years under consideration, from 220 in 2018-2019 (Jan-June) to 216 in 2020-2021 (same months). Late filing of complaints is one of the reasons, say experts. TOI spoke to a cybercrime victim, a 36-year-old IT engineer who had registered a case of ‘Nigerian email fraud’.
He claimed that he was duped of over Rs 12 lakh in 2018, and despite providing various documents to the police, his written complaint was not converted into an FIR for years. “Finally, I was called to the BKC police station on July 26 and an FIR was registered. I am wondering from where will the police be able to recover the money now, so long after the fraud. The police could have solved the case easily when I provided a report of a forensic investigation I had done over three months in 2019. But they sat on it.”
With the local police disappointing him, the IT engineer mailed his forensic report to Dubai police by the end of 2019 since he had discovered a Dubai link to the fraud. “They took my statement over phone and video calls. Based on my evidence, they cracked the case within three months in 2020 and busted the racket in India, Dubai and Turkey,” he said. “Indian cops are always a step behind fraudsters.”
The police say that for years, the cyber division was understaffed. Ultimately, after looking at the rise in numbers and the low detection rate, the state cyber cell was given 26 specialists from prestigious engineering colleges, including the IITs, who are expected to help clear the case backlog in Mumbai and also across the state.
State cyber cell PRO and superintendent of police Sanjay Shintre said the team is working on detecting fraud along with other agencies who have come on board. “It is noticed that there are many instances where victims who lost meagre sums in online frauds do not approach the cops to lodge complaints. We urge everyone to come forward,” he said.