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Online racket lynchpin arrested

Crores siphoned off from multiple bank accounts in Kerala

The Ernakulam Rural police have arrested the lynchpin of an online racket that allegedly robbed crores from multiple bank accounts in Kerala.

The arrested was identified Manothosh Biswas, 46, of Kolkata. He was nabbed from Bengaluru when he was allegedly on the verge of pulling off a similar fraud there.

The police said that his racket had robbed around ₹1.50 crore from the State in the past couple of months alone. Of this, ₹85 lakh was stolen from the account of a Muvattupuzha resident, said K. Karthik, District Police Chief (Ernakulam Rural), who led the probe.

Probe into the Muvattupuzha-based petitioner led to more victims like in Thrissur where ₹83.75 lakh was robbed from three separate accounts.

Modus operandi

The racket followed a modus operandi whereby they hacked into the accounts of those with net banking facility. After obtaining the user ID and password for the net banking facility, they secure duplicate SIM cards of their targets using Aadhaar card copies and get hold of one-time passwords (OTPs) that unlock accounts for them following which they transfer the entire amount in victims’ accounts to their accounts.

Gross negligence

The police said that there was gross negligence on the part of telecom service providers in issuing duplicate SIM cards with little verification. Once the duplicate SIM card was activated, the original SIM card holder gets blocked out of access to service, which on many occasions gets mistaken for network connectivity issues and hence goes unreported. Since the account holder has no access to mobile service network, he remains unaware of message from the bank about the withdrawals.

The duplicate SIM of the petitioner from Muvattupuzha was secured from a BSNL office in Thiruvananthapuram. The racket has withdrawn ₹85 lakh over five days and that amount was transferred to four accounts in West Bengal.

The duplicate SIM card of one the victims from Thrissur was secured from a service provider’s office in Aluva.

The accused was arrested just when the racket was planning a big operation in Bengaluru, said the police. More people are suspected to have fallen victims to the fraud. K.G. Gopalakrishnan, Inspector, cyber police, is the investigation officer.

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