Patna, Sept. 12: Bihar has notched up yet another "cottage industry" dubious distinction - cyber crime training centres.
Police have discovered that around a dozen villages in Nalanda and Sheikhpura districts have become hotpots of cyber crime not only in Bihar but at least 10 states of India and even beyond the country's boundaries.
"What is shocking is specialised trainers in those villages are imparting training in such crimes to gang members," Patna senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manu Maharaaj said today. "The trainers even coach the recruits in the accent of different languages spoken in the country and abroad so that they cannot be easily identified. The training centres also provide jobs to the recruits."
The revelations came from the interrogation of seven members of a gang that used to dupe candidates taking the Bihar School Examination Board's Teachers' Eligibility Test (TET) by promising to help them qualify in lieu of money. A special Patna police team arrested the gang members on Monday.
The criminals' CV included more than just duping exam takers. "The police have come across gangs that used to dupe people by offering discounts on electronic goods, by offering luxury vehicles through lotteries, and would siphon money from bank accounts after ascertaining personal identification number of account holders," said SSP Maharaaj.
Police investigations have revealed that gangs from Katarisarai, Varith, Govardhanbigha, Lasarpura, Bahadurganj, Mayapur, Mayees and Banchlabigha in Nalanda district and Rahiya, Kabirpur, Pachi and Parvati in Sheikhpura district are involved in 90 per cent of the cyber crimes reported in the state as well as big cities across the country.
Cyber crime, according to the police, has become a cottage industry in these districts like the illegal gun factories in Munger.
"Villagers in Nalanda and Sheikhpura districts are falling prey to the fraudsters. If not taken seriously, days are not far off when more and more youths will depend on the gangs to clear competitive examinations," said an investigating officer.
Police officials from Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka have contacted their counterparts in Nalanda, Sheikhpura and Nawada districts to gather information about bank frauds affecting people in those states.
In July this year, the police stumbled upon a gang led by a man called Ashish Gupta that used to dupe Indians in the United States. The fraudsters used to extort money in the name of penalty for rectifying "errors" in immigration data filled at departure cards at airports or providing technical support to save their computers from virus attacks. They would speak fluent English with an American accent. "The frauds used to ask the victims to pay in US dollars in their bank accounts," said an investigating officer.
Disclosing the modus operandi of another gang, the investigating officer said the gang members used to call up people and tell them they had won an SUV in a lottery against some online purchase. The gang members gave the victims bank account numbers to deposit some "token money", and the accounts would be closed after the work was done.
According to investigating officers, it takes five to six days to master cyber fraud at a training centre in Nalanda's Katarisarai. The cops also believe the trainers have branches in Jamtara in Jharkhand and Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh.
"The fraudsters have earned crores of rupees through fraudulent means," SSP Maharaaj said. "We have sent teams outside the state to figure out their reach."
A resident of Nalanda's Katarisarai said most of the villages that are on the cops' radar are inaccessible.
"Roads are in bad shape. The residents don't allow the contractors to repair roads as police would reach the villages," the resident said.
An arrested gang member, Santu Choudhary, told interrogators that recruits were provided Rs 200 for making 10 calls of which on average two persons would fall victim to the gang.
The latest case of cyber fraud was reported from Hilsa in Nalanda where a garments shop owner was duped of Rs 34,000 on Monday.