The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SMS sleaze via web network
- Harassers opt for cyber anonymity

Harassment has a new garb ' the convenient anonymity of GeNext's favourite SMS.

Asha Agarwal (name changed), a college student residing in Salt Lake, started receiving text messages on her mobile phone in December 2005 from a person who refused to identify himself but insisted on meeting her. The problem in tracing the message was that it came not from another mobile phone but from the Internet.

As the anonymous messages turned into a torrent of threats and obscenities, often at the oddest hours of day and night, Asha first changed her mobile number. When the harassment continued, she approached the CID, accompanied by her father.

'Seeing '9999' as the sender's number, we understood that someone was using BSNL's Internet SMS service to send the messages,' said Rajeev Kumar, deputy inspector-general (operations), who heads CID's Cyber Crime unit.

'We got in touch with BSNL officials with the exact date and time of the messages. BSNL provided us with some details and we tracked down the phone number. We found out that the Internet connection was in the name of an advocate who lived in Asha's neighbourhood. Further investigations revealed that the harasser ' around 30 years old and newly married ' was a close friend of the family, who would send these messages from his home PC.'

According to CID, the number of tech torment cases is on the rise. 'Each month, we receive around 25-30 such cases where people are receiving an SMS sent through the Internet from unknown people. There could be many more who don't approach us.'

Though the one-and-a-half-year-old Cyber Crime unit is now gearing up to tackle such threats better, tracking new-age crime has its unique problems.

'The process is a little time-consuming, as there is some protocol to be followed; for example, Internet service providers have to be asked formally to provide details, which can take up to a month,' said Kumar.

The bigger problem, though, is that in most cases the culprit turns out to be someone close to the victim. 'In 95 per cent cases, we've seen this and as a result, families are unwilling to pursue the case. So, in a way, it's a waste of time and manpower for us,' rued Kumar.

Conviction can, however, lead to a jail term of six months to one year.

Mischief-makers beware, caution cops. 'It's easy to track down home users indulging in such activities as well as those using cybercafes. We don't need witnesses or circumstantial evidence either' It's a paperwork-based investigation,' Kumar explained.

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