Bhanu P Lohumi
Shimla, March 27
Cyber fraudsters have been using novel methods for extortion from affluent elderly men in Himachal Pradesh, with the police receiving 55 complaints of honey trap in the first two months of the year alone.
The fraudsters first meticulously choose their targets and then use girls to engage with the men on WhatsApp. Starting with calls, the conversation gradually turns into texting and video chatting. Next, the video chats are recorded and morphed into adult clips to blackmail the men. The accused fake themselves as policemen in their WhatsApp DP (display picture). They even concoct suicide episodes to add gravity to their narrative, falsely claiming the girls in the video committed suicide.
Two retired government employees were allegedly blackmailed in this manner, with the fraudsters threatening to upload morphed videos on social media if money wasn’t paid. In one case, the victim was even sent a fake police notice on WhatsApp demanding Rs 1 crore compensation for the woman in the clip, citing harassment and mental trauma. In both the cases, Rs 7-8 lakh were extorted before the victims approached the police. Additional Superintendent of Police (Cyber Crime) Narvir Singh Rathore said 97 per cent of the complainants avoided registration of cases due to the fear of social stigma. Of the 55 complaints, 95 per cent pertain to men in the age group of 45 to 75 years. In 80 per cent of the cases, the victims paid the ransom.
Cautioning people not to interact with strangers on WhatsApp, Rathore said the fraudsters zeroed in on affluent men after months of digital scouting. He said school dropouts and uneducated teenagers in areas such as Mewat, Bharatpur, Alwar and Nagar in Rajasthan and Haryana were mainly indulging in such practices. Sources said the accused honey-trapped well-to-do men and then blackmailed them by threatening to make fake sexually explicit content viral.
The police said in some cases, fake profiles of girls were created by male scammers while voice-modulation apps were used to change male voice into female voice for “sexting” over WhatsApp, which was followed by stripping video calls to honey trap victims. Sources said girls were being employed and trained by extortionists to trap victims and crypto currency wallets were being used to receive payments.
Honeytrap: 55 cases
- Girls used to engage with men through calls on apps
- Video calls are recorded and faces of victims morphed
- Money is then extorted with the threat to make videos viral
In 80% of the cases, the victims paid the ransom. Additional SP (Cyber Crime) Narvir Singh Rathore says 97% of the complainants didn't lodge cases fearing social stigma.
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