Three people including the Indian mastermind of Tamil Nadu and Cambodia-based "hi-tech extortion gang" have been arrested by the police following complaints by several social media users.
The accused used fake police notice and browser pop-up window to extract money from Indian citizens, claiming it to be a fine for browsing pornographic material, which is prohibited in India.
UPI payment and QR codes were used to extort money from innocent citizens and then transferred to Cambodia using more than 20 bank accounts.
The racket came to light when several social media users informed the police about a notice, which they had allegedly received from the police, regarding blockage of all their files due to watching pornographic material on their computers, according to senior police officer Aniesh Roy. The victims were then asked to pay Rs 3,000 fine for the illegal activity, Mr Roy said.
The victims also added they were casually surfing the internet and did not search for any obscene content.
During the investigation, the police found that fake pop-ups were coming from abroad. Though, when the police followed the money trail, it was found that the extorted money was being transferred to different bank accounts in Tamil Nadu.
A police team reached Tamil Nadu and found that the accounts were opened on fake addresses. The police team camped in the area for over a week and covered 2,000 km between Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore, Udhagamandalam and several other places and arrested three people including B Dhinushant alias Dheenu, the local mastermind.
Dhinushant revealed that the technical part of the whole scam i.e. sending fake police notices and selecting the targets was done by his brother B Chandrakant alias Chandru who lives near Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Those arrested by the police include Gabriel James, Ram Kumar Selvam and B Dhinushant.
The police's investigation has so far revealed that the fraudulent money was sent to more than 20 bank accounts, between February 2021 to June 2021, through the UPI ID and QR code used in the fake notice, amounting to more than Rs 30 lakh. Dhinushant revealed that his brother Chandru was withdrawing money from the banking system through cryptocurrencies. The matter is being further investigated to find out the entire money trail.