The Delhi High Court on Friday has stated, noting this discourages newcomers from entering the digital realm negatively impacting the economy, “Financial losses due to cyber fraud diminish people’s trust in online transaction platforms which is against the aspirations of an “advanced Digital Bharat.”
The court’s observations came while refusing to grant bail to a man, accused in a case of defrauding people of their hard-earned money through financial frauds committed with the help of a mobile application.
It is noted that the conspiracy in the present case and it must have attracted thousands of investors as the money trail till date, prima facie, is of about Rs 140 crore.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma stated, “The case in hand serves as an illustration of how cyber-enabled crimes are taking place in the present digital age wherein the accused persons through a click bait link allure people towards installing an application commonly known as ‘app’ in their mobile phones and then based on this allurement, the cyber illiterate common citizens download them or click the link totally oblivious to the fraud which will stare them in their eyes in a matter of few minutes or hours. The bait of getting them short term loans on a click of a button and defrauding them of their hard earned money is nowadays common and the cyber illiteracy of common citizens is being taken advantage of by such accused, as prima facie in the current case.”
In this case, a complaint was lodged with the police alleging that the complainant received SMS messages on his mobile phone for loan for 3rd COVID-19 vaccine dose and it also had a link for checking the eligibility. The prosecution stated, the moment the complainant opened that particular link, mobile application ‘Express Loan’ got downloaded and he was asked to fill details of his Aadhaar card and PAN and Rs 4,200 instantly got credited in his bank account.
However, after 4 days of availing the loan, he started getting threat calls from the developers of Express Loan application who got access to the contacts and other data stored in his phone and threatened to send morphed photographs to his contacts.
During the investigation, police found that there were 46 more complaints registered against Express Loan application and it was found that another complainant reported that Rs 25 lakh was extorted from him by the accused persons by morphing his photographs and sending it to his contacts.
However, the police found that the money was allegedly transferred in the account of accused Vineet Jhavar, who approached the high court seeking bail in the cheating and forgery case.
The high court, in its order, noted that the alleged fraud took place at the most difficult times for our country, that is, COVID-19 pandemic when the citizens were suffering losses in business and were looking for survival in the market and earning for themselves.
It stated that the innocent investors who deposited Rs 4,000 or Rs 5,000 in the hope of obtaining loans for survival may have even afforded to deposit this amount with difficulty.
The court stated, “Such offences extend well beyond the immediate financial losses associated with fraudulent transactions, and it is the economy at large which suffers firstly through the
immediate loss and secondly, it is the loss of the people’s trust in the online financial transactions.”
It further stated that the economic impact is 2-fold – first, the direct financial losses incurred through the fraud of often hard earned money of gullible people, and second, “the indirect losses resulting in diminished trust of people in online financial transaction platforms which is against the aspirations of an advanced Digital Bharat.”