“They then create an account for you on their fake phishing website, will ask you to recharge that account with a small sum using UPI payment. They then add you to a WhatsApp or Telegram group and claim that you are trading. You will book a profit of 11.25% and then when you invest more, they pay 22% profit. After a few weeks of trading they disappear,” says Jain.
Pratik is not alone, more than 300 individuals in Gujarat have lodged complaints with the cybercrime helpline number 1930 on such fraudulent deals over the past one year. Gujarat is not new to crypto scams.
One of the earliest known cryptocurrency scams that came to light was when a Surat-based business entity floated bitcoin called BitConnect, which went bust in early 2018. Gullible investors, it is estimated lost close to Rs 500 crore to the scam. The promoter went missing.
“Not many came forward to register their complaints for the fear of IT raids back then,” says a senior Gujarat CID(crime) official. BitConnect promoters had issued a cryptocurrency token, “BCC”, and floated a global trading and lending platform for investors in 2016. The scam came to light following a controversial kidnapping case.
Vishal Rabari, assistant commissioner of police (cybercrime) Rajkot, says, “Generally, victims get calls from unknown women, who post their fake profiles on social media. These women then develop friendship with their victims. These women claim that they are operating from a foreign country. They lure their victims into investing in cryptocurrency with the promise of high returns. The victims are made to download mobile apps which take over the victim’s device and transfer the money.”
Rabari says that over the last few months, a dozen-odd cases have been registered with the cybercell.
In Vadodara city, Hardik Makadia, ACP (cybercrime) explains that he receives three to four complaints every month, “Certain gangs lure people into investing in cryptocurrency and then disappear with their money. Some gangs simply cheat people under the pretext of investing in cryptocurrency.”
The Vadodara cybercrime arrested four persons in December last year for duping a person under the pretext of selling bitcoins. The victim had transferred Rs 1.41 lakh to a bank account to buy bitcoins but the gang disappeared with the money.
In July 2021, a Vadodara-based businessman lost Rs 2 crore after a gang promised to help him start a bitcoin business and duped him.
(With inputs from Ashish Chauhan and Paul John)