"There is a crime cell to crack cases of cyber crime and sophisticated software is on its way to equip the cell and turn it into a lab." said A.K. Viswanathan,City Police Commissioner

Of late, there are any number of incidents of e-mails and SMSs being sent to people announcing cash rewards, prizes and calls to take over unclaimed properties. Sometimes, it is a royal family with no legal heir willing to bequeath their property. Interestingly, some of these e-mails now come with the emblem/logo of the British High Commission and Reserve Bank of India to make it appear genuine and credible, says K. Kathirmathiyon of Coimbatore Consumer Cause.

City Police Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan said that despite warnings, people continue to respond to such e-mails and SMS." "There is a crime cell to crack cases of cyber crime and sophisticated software is on its way to equip the cell and turn it into a lab." he added.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Central Crime Branch, Coimbatore City, R. Mohan and Inspector Chandrasekhar pointed out that before remitting amounts in the account of a stranger offering to bring a fortune, people should think twice.

Nigerian gangs have different names for the modus operandi such as entry charges, documentation charges, processing charges, income-tax, customs duty, courier charges, charges for obtaining NOC from both the Governments, making the process appear very genuine.

When the intended victim, turns impatient asking for disbursal of the prize money or questions the demand for charges in various instalments, the gang would abruptly dump the victim and start looking for another.

Lalitha Jaiwanthkumar, a new generation bank official, pointed out receipt of seven such mails and SMSs. When, asked how she reacted to such offers, she said “I just laugh it away.”

These accused get bank accounts opened in the name of loafers, beggars in North Indian cities who wilfully agree to be a party to the crime for a meagre sum of Rs 5,000 or so.

The gang after using the account for one victim would just abandon it.

Money remitted into the account will be withdrawn from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., leaving the account empty and defunct at dawn. Tracing the accused based on bank account, phone number or Internet Protocol ID will be a futile exercise, as they operated from different places.

Police have traced the history of this offence. In the 15 century it was known as “Spanish Prisoner of Conscience”, then it became “Mexican banker’s daughter scam” in the US. It took a new avatar in Europe in the name of Advance Fee Fraud or Lottery Fraud. In India, in police parlance, it is known as Nigerian Scam or 419 Scam. 419 referred to Section 419 of Indian Penal Code, a penal legal provision for cheating.

But statistics indicate a relief now, as the number of cases on record had come down. As far as major cases were concerned, the crime rate grew from 2009 to reach a peak in 2011 and is now declining, if the 2012 statistics are to go by. The last five-and-a-half months in 2012 has seen only two cases i.e., one in January and another in May.

In addition to sections such as 294 b (use of obscene language) and 420 (Cheating) of Indian Penal Code (IPC), now, the police are invoking the provisions of Information Technology Act to ensure highest punishment, as inadequate sentences had least impact on offenders more harmful to society.

In minor offences, where the complaints were treated as petitions at the request or consent of the victim, they are inquired, resolved and closed. For example, City Police had received as many as 34 petitions in 2009 and all were resolved, whereas 78 petitions were received in 2010 and all have been disposed of. In 2011, of the 79 petitions received, 63 have been disposed of and in 2012 so far till June 20, as many as 31 were received and 15 of them were resolved.

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