The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Odisha police has cracked one of the biggest scams in India, with at least 50,000 jobseekers having been duped of crores of rupees.
“The EOW unearthed the job fraud being run from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. This scam targeted the desperate and innocent jobseekers in at least five States — Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha,” said Jai Narayan Pankaj, Inspector-General of Police (EOW).
Mr. Pankaj said early estimates suggested at least 50,000 jobseekers across the country were duped of crores.
“The scam was being run by a group of tech-savvy engineers from Uttar Pradesh with the help of some expert website developers. This core group was assisted by around 50 call centre employees. These employees were paid ₹15,000 per month and were from Jamalpur and Aligarh localities of Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
The modus operandi of the scamsters came to light after Zafar Ahmed (25) from Aligarh was arrested. Ahmed, said to be one of the masterminds of the scam, is an engineer by profession. In fact, there are four scamsters — of them three are cousin brothers, all engineers. They had hired a person having expertise in website development.
According to the EOW, Ahmed was produced before a local court in Aligarh which granted five-day remand. He would be produced before the court in Bhubaneswar.
These scamsters would develop websites identical to government portals displaying the job advertisement, mainly targeting health or skill department jobs, some using ‘Pradhan-Mantri schemes’ to attract and deceive jobseekers, the Odisha EOW said.
The fake employment sites were ‘JeevanSwasthyaSurakshaYojana www.jssy.in’, www.bjsry.in (Bharatiya Jana SwasthyaSurakshaYojana’ and www.gsmsss.in (GraminSamajManavswasthyaSeva).
Job aspirants would be first charged ₹3,000 as registration fees. During the course of time, he or she would be directed to submit money in the name of interview, training and other orientation programmes. Gullible jobseekers had paid up to ₹70,000. The skill training never happened. Those who got whiff of the fraud had withdrawn themselves.
Sometimes they also give advertisements in local newspapers but ensured that they will use fake identity and use WhatsApp call or other such systems and transact money through mule bank accounts only. Around 100 mule bank accounts were used in this scam.
“Jan Seva Kendras”
“These fraudsters usually withdraw money only from ‘Jan Seva Kendras’ using the QR code of the Kendra and mule account. There is plethora of such ‘Jan Seva Kendras’ in Uttar Pradesh who would give the cash amount taking 10% commission. By such clever moves the scamsters ensured they left no trail either through phone or bank accounts,” said Mr. Pankaj.
Money from the mule bank accounts was collected by the accused from Rajasthan and the SIMs used by the fraudsters were registered in the name of innocent persons.
“They will receive money from candidates in the various mule accounts only. Once they have completed the exercise suddenly the website and call centres will go off. Then they will come up with some new website with new schemes on same pattern,” said the police official.
The EOW has found use of more than 1,000 fake SIMs and 530 handsets for this scam. “They were extremely clever and anticipated every move of the police or law enforcement agencies. Generally they will use only WhatsApp voice calls by using fake SIM cards. To avoid ‘true caller’ application detection, they ensured to mark or save their mobile number related to the scheme name only. So that if someone checks their name on true caller it will show the scheme name,” said the investigating agency.
According to investigators, the scamsters did not use their personal phones for the fraud which were saved as ‘Kaamwala’ phone.
They would throw all the mobile sets and SIMs used in the ‘closed operations’ in the nearby rivers.
Most challenging case
After receiving a complaint about the job scam, the EOW planted an officer as a candidate. The process followed by their candidate helped it to reach the masterminds.
“The EOW was working very hard on this case for the last three months. So far this has been the most challenging case for the EOW as the scamsters are very smart. They pre-empted the move of the law enforcement authorities. By analysing various clues and technical and physical surveillance, we could make first arrest in this case,” said Mr. Pankaj in a statement.
“In Odisha, we have the list of about 2,000 job seekers who have applied and paid different amounts to the fraudsters. In Odisha, about 6,000 candidates were cheated. The number of duped candidates would easily cross minimum 50,000 in five States. This has been validated after an analysis of the website,” he said.
The fraudsters had been duping people since the year 2020 and have amassed a lot of property worth crores of rupees in Aligarh with the ill-gotten money. The EOW would be approaching all States concerned as well as the Central agencies to alert them as well as to initiate investigations at their level too.