Can you bank upon a banker in these days of cybercrime?

An excerpt from ‘Cyber Encounters: Cops' Adventures with Online Criminals’ by Ashok Kumar, O.P. Manocha

GN Bureau | April 18, 2023

#Crime   #Technology   #Cybercrime   #Police  
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)

Cyber Encounters: Cops' Adventures with Online Criminals
By Ashok Kumar, O.P. Manocha
Penguin/Ebury Press, 256 pages, Rs 299

As technology has evolved, so has crime. Digital technologies have brought with them a whole host of crimes committed online-unsuspecting people are cheated of crores of rupees, duped by false advertisements on fake websites, incited to click on suspicious links through payment gateways, and download apps that give remote access of their device to criminals. From credit card fraud to phishing, the list is endless.

Ashok Kumar, DGP, Uttarakhand Police, and O.P. Manocha, ex-DRDO scientist, unfold twelve nail-biting stories of true cyber-crimes unearthed from India.
‘Cyber Encounters: Cops' Adventures with Online Criminals’ by Kumar and Manocha delves deep into this nebulous cyberspace, to bring twelve fascinating accounts of cybercrime. Understand the psychology of the victims and the tactics and modus operandi adopted by the criminals. The teasers of these tale read like this:
* Ajay had no idea that falling in love at the age of sixty-five might cost him Rs 97 lakh!
* It’s no longer exciting to watch porn—Lucky ended up playing the actor in the movie and become a victim of sextortion!
* Pretending to be the director general of police, Mohsin landed in jail.
* Sunil’s desire to double his money in seven days ended up helping the police uncover a 400-crore Ponzi fraud.
In his foreword to this book, superstar Amitabh Bachchan has this to say: “This book has attempted to explain everything in straight forward terms using short anecdotes and personal experiences.”

Here is an excerpt from the book – only the beginning of one of those nail-biting real-life tales:


Can you bank upon a banker?

When the authorities you trust with your assets become the attacker! Akash worked as a senior researcher at the Forest research Institute, Dehradun, and had taken premature retirement from his job. He still had three years to go for superannuation. Everyone was surprised when he put in his papers. Why was he leaving such a good job, which provided him with a handsome salary and respectability?

Akash, however, knew very well what he was doing. Taking early retirement had been on his mind for the past many years and was not a sudden decision. Akash had been diagnosed with a brain tumour twelve years earlier. The doctors at the All India Institute of Medical sciences were surprised at the size of the tumour when they studied the MRI. They told Akash that the tumour could have blinded him for life had it pressed the optic nerve. But it was Akash’s good luck that he came to the doctors in time. The saying ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ held good in this case. The doctors congratulated him after a successful surgery. It was like a second life for Akash. Soon, all was well and he was back to work. But Akash decided to stop working and start living the life he had always imagined. Voluntary retirement was a step in this direction. He was a free bird now.

Akash loved travelling and spending time in nature. Soon after his retirement, he went on a one-month road trip to Spiti along with his wife. It took them one month to complete the trip. Akash always believed that it was the journey that one should enjoy and not the destination. Spiti, in north-eastern Himachal Pradesh, is a sensationally beautiful place and lies in the cold desert region. It offers breathtaking views of the landscape and has some ancient Buddhist monasteries. They stayed at various places during the trip, experiencing the beauty and culture of the Spiti Valley.

Before his trip, Akash also sold off his villa located in the centre of the city—something he had always wanted to do as both pollution and traffic were increasing day by day—and bought a small flat on the outskirts near Sahastradhara. He deposited some proceedings from the sale of the villa into a joint account he had opened a longtime ago with his wife. Akash wanted to make some fixed deposits with the money before proceeding on his trip but his bank accountant, Nautiyal, told him that the RBI repo rates were going to be revised soon and the banks would be offering increased rates of interest, so he should wait for some time before investing his money.

Meanwhile, Akash completely forgot about the money parked in his bank account. The account had become dormant as there had been no transactions in it for a long time. After retirement, Akash had opened a new pension  account in the same bank. He never bothered to check the status of the old account as he had become busy with hisnew lease on life.

The bank official, Nautiyal, who advised Akash to wait for banks’ interest rates to rise, was a nice person and always treated Akash with a smile and preferential service. Bank employees usually treat people nicely when they know that a client has a good amount of money which they can invest in the bank. Akash felt flattered by the VIP treatment he got from the bank, and became quite friendly with nautiyal. the bank officer had travelled to almost every city in Uttarakhand during his tenure in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions and was now settled in Dehradun. He would tell Akash stories of his banking experience in the hills, where the villagers would bring pure desi ghee for him as a gesture of thanks for his services.

Nautiyal also told Akash that he had often refused to accept a promotion as it came with a transfer to far-flung locations. Nautiyal’s son was in Class 10 and would soon be appearing for his board examinations. He wanted to be with his son for the next few years till he completed school. Though he had rejected the promotion which would have given him a substantial raise in salary and other perks, Nautiyal often felt quite frustrated when he compared himself with his peers, who had accomplished much in their careers and had even become branch managers. He told Akash that he was financially under stress too. His teenage children had many demands and he found it difficult to meet them with his fixed salary. Akash would counsel him, telling him that we all come with a destiny into this world and we have to live with that destiny. Nautiyal would laugh at Akash’s discourses.

At the height of the CoVID-19 lockdown, Akash used to seek Nautiyal’s assistance with banking operations on the phone. Nautiyal made sure that Akash sent him a signed and scanned copy of the application for the service he wanted from the bank on WhatsApp. It was quite convenient for Akash as he did not have to visit the bank for small jobs like renewals of fixed deposits, obtaining interest certificates from the bank for filing income tax returns, etc. they had become good friends by then; Akash had immense faith in Nautiyal and even trusted him with his personal information at times.

All of Akash’s life savings were with the bank, as he always believed that the safest place to keep his money was a bank account and hence, he never invested in mutual funds. He put his retirement funds in fixed deposits in the bank to supplement his pension with the nominal interest from the bank.

One day, after settling down in his new flat, Akash was sorting his papers when he came across his old account passbook. He found that it had not been updated for a long time. He called his friend Nautiyal in the bank and told him about the account. Nautiyal told him he would have to come to the bank for this as the account had been inoperative for the past many days. When Akash went to the bank the next day, he was shocked to see the updated passbook! It showed some large transactions during the last month from his account. The proceeds from the villa sale were all gone! Around Rs 31 lakh had been withdrawn over various transactions in the previous three months. Akash was surprised. He had not made any of these transactions, and neither had he received any message from the bank. Nautiyal was equally astonished.

Akash lodged a complaint with the bank manager, who immediately ordered an internal inquiry and advised him to go to the Cyber Police station.

[The excerpt reproduced with the permission of the publishers.]



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