Customers throng petrol pumps
Customers throng petrol pumps

The Cyber Police have arrested a gang of six people, including a woman, for duping a complainant of ₹3.5 lakh and have found two fake websites made by them, which could have cheated at least 10,000 people since its inception in 2018. Over 125 other fake websites have been found in their possession. The accused used to operate these fake websites from Patna, Bihar, trapping people through the click bait and then luring them with offers to own an LPG gas agency or petrol pump for benefits.

On December 15, a complainant had approached Cyber Police, stating that she has been duped of ₹3.5 lakh on the pretext of being allotted a petrol pump of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). A case was lodged and the primary probe revealed that the accused had lured the victims by advertising on social media websites and creating fake websites.

Following the money trail, it was learned that the gang was operating from Bihar and West Bengal, following which two teams were dispatched. Police identified two beneficiaries of the bank account. One woman and two men were arrested from Bihar. During the investigation, one of the accused fled to Ratnagiri and the police followed him with the help of the local police. The probe also revealed that they had been trapping people using click-bait strategy and directing the users to fake websites, which had a stark resemblance to the original websites. Victims were asked to fill in the details like their name, locations and bank details.

"The victim was asked to make a part payment of 50 per cent to register and be eligible for the allotment of the petrol pump or gas agency. The accused contacted them via e-mail, phone or messages to get the payments and asked them to pay the remaining 50 per cent to get allotment. Each victim was duped between ₹6 lakh and ₹7 lakh. We suspect that the accused cleave cheated people to the tune of ₹10 crore," said Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police (crime).

Based on the information, police arrested other accused, who were either outsourced to make the fake websites, which were made after a thorough recce of trending websites with most hits. "The other fake websites created by these accused are for instant loans, Reliance towers, petrol pump dealership and e-commerce websites," said Rashmi Karandikar, deputy commissioner of police (cyber).

Most of the arrested accused are well educated and are believed to have trapped over 10,000 people using just two websites, and many more victims could turn up in the probe of other 125 fake websites. Police have urged citizens to approach them if they were duped of any similar investment opportunities.

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Free Press Journal