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Opinion | How masterminds sitting in China duped 5 lakh Indians of crores of rupees

The scale of operation clearly indicates it was like a deadly Chinese financial virus that was trying to rob Indians of their money, at a time when the deadly Chinese Coronavirus was sweeping the subcontinent.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: June 11, 2021 14:38 IST
Opinion | How masterminds sitting in China duped 5 lakh
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | How masterminds sitting in China duped 5 lakh Indians of crores of rupees

Today I would like to caution people about Chinese scamsters who promised to double the money of investors in India and, in the process, wiped out the earnings of Indians amounting to several thousand crores. Nearly 5 lakh Indians have been cheated. More than 50 lakh downloads of these Chinese apps were made by gullible investors in India in the hope of earning a quick profit. The scale of operation clearly indicates  it was like a deadly Chinese financial virus that was trying to rob Indians of their money, at a time when the deadly Chinese Coronavirus was sweeping the subcontinent.

The entire financial racket was busted when Delhi Police, in a major crackdown against these Chinese apps, arrested 12 people in India. Most of them are agents of their Chinese masters  or chartered accountants who helped in siphoning off investors’ money through shell companies to their masterminds sitting in China.
Some China-based entities floated malicious apps like EZPlan and Power Bank on Google Play Store, offering to double returns on investments within 24 to 35 days. The returns were offered on hourly or daily basis with investments ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 10 lakh. Initially, the payouts were made on small amounts to win the trust of investors and then the major siphoning took place. The Chinese apps became so popular that at one point of time, Power Bank was ranking at No.4 among popular apps on Play Store.
After hundreds of investors complained to Delhi Police, a young cyber cell officer was deputed as decoy to infiltrate the Chinese network and find out about the transfers of money to different accounts. With the help of this decoy, police was able to identify link payment gateways, UPIs and transaction IDs, and bank accounts used by the scamsters. Several connected cellphone numbers were traced, mostly originating from China. Till now, 25 shell companies have been identified through which the scam money was being transferred to China.
Delhi Police picked up the first suspect, Sheikh Robin from Uluberia, West Bengal. Two chartered accountants, Ronak Bansal and Avik Kedia were picked up from Delhi and Gurugram, while five others, Umakant Akash Joys, Ved Chandra, Hari Om, Arvind and Abhishekh Mansaramani, were arrested from Delhi. They were acting as directors of these shell companies. Two more persons, Sashi Bansal and Mithilesh Sharma, were caught for providing bogus companies and bank accounts. A Tibetan woman was also held from Delhi airport.
According to Delhi Police Commissioner S. N. Shrivastava, police has blocked Rs 11 crore in various bank accounts and payment gateways and Rs 97 lakh cash was seized from the Gurugram house of one of the chartered accountants Avik Kedia. He had set up more than 110 shell companies for his Chinese masters. He used to charge Rs 3 lakhs from his Chinese masterminds for creating shell companies. The other chartered accountant Ronak Bansal used to keep track of all transactions, and transfer money through cryptocurrency to his Chinese masters.
During investigation, it was found that their ‘headquarter’ was somewhere near Uluberia in West Bengal, from where they used to target people in Bengal, Odisha, Assam and other north eastern states. Later they spread their tentacles to Delhi NCR region and other states.  Police said, Power Bank app projected itself as a Bengaluru-based startup, while EZPlan was  available on its website of the same name, based in India. The servers of both these apps were located in China.
The scamsters used to randomly contact people on their WhatsApp and Telegram numbers, and hired interested Indians as their partners for procuring bogus bank accounts, creating shell companies, circulating and promoting the Chinese apps and transferring money. These apps were also promoted on several YouTube channels, while chat links were sent through bulk SMS to prospective Indian investors.
Once the investor registered his name on the apps, he was repeatedly asked to invest money to earn lucrative returns, and people fell for the bait. From Wazirabad, Delhi, to Banka(Bihar), Bolpur(Bengal) to Bellary (Karnataka), gullible investors were cheated of their money. Most of them came to know about these money-making apps from WhatsApp and Facebook.
The modus operandi was simple. Once a person downloaded the app and registered his bank details, he used to get Rs 6 as initial amount. Ten per cent moneyback was offered in one day on investing Rs 300, and double the money invested after 24 days. The apps offered incentives to those who forwarded the app to at least ten friends or relatives. They promised to make people millionaires, if one paid a certain fees to become a VIP member. Initially, the apps paid money to investors, but once a large amount was invested, the investors lost track of the contact persons from the apps and the shell bank accounts are found closed.
Till now, Delhi Police has calculated the amount of siphoning money at Rs 200 crore. These transfers took place through two gateways. Police believe the entire scam could run into several thousand crores as more investors are expected to send details of their investments.
Messages were sent from earning apps named Power Bank, Lightning Power Bank, EZMoney, Sun Factory, Pocket Wallet, through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to targets offering to double their investments. If you get any message from these Chinese apps, delete them immediately. Do not share your name and bank details at any cost. They are like moving sharks waiting for the kill. The Chinese masterminds were taking advantage of millions of Indians sitting in their homes, due to pandemic lockdowns, unable to move out.
To sweeten the bait, these companies offered Rs 6 to Rs 10 for spending one hour on the earning app. Investors were lured to earn Rs 300, Rs 3000 and Rs 30,000. The company offered to double the money invested if the investors roped in his friends and relatives to these apps. Delhi Police said, the big honchos of these companies used to project themselves as global leaders of digital marketing. They used to call their companies as tech startups. They used to introduce their companies as service providers.  
Delhi Police has blocked all these malicious Chinese apps in India with help from internet. Google App Store has been asked by Delhi Police not to keep these malicious apps in the store, and check antecedents before adding them in store. But the problem is, even if a few malicious apps are removed, the scamsters will return with apps having new names. There is no permanent solution to this Chinese virus.
The only solution is: people should stop being greedy in their urge for earning quick money and avoid any contact with such scamsters. If anybody has been duped, he or she must contact Delhi Police immediately and provide details. There is a slim chance that they may get their money back only if it is in India. If the money has been transferred to China, there is negligible chance of getting back the money.
Already cyber crimes are on the rise across India during this pandemic period. In 2019, 1,94,000 cyber crimes were reported. It jumped to 11,58,000 in 2020 during the pandemic period. When the second wave was at its peak, Delhi Police cyber crime cell got 791 complaints within a span of one month, from April 25 to May 24. 596 FIRs were filed during this period. This is clear indication of cyber crime gangs active across India. The only way to protect yourself is to avoid contacts with any such questionable app that promises you to double your money. Shun greed: this is the only way to prevent being duped of your hard earned money.

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