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Bengaluru cops’ multi-disciplinary team on prowl to tackle finance-related cybercrimes

PTI, Aug 2, 2021, 6:17 PM IST

Bengaluru: Bengaluru Police, led by Commissioner Kamal Pant, have brought the central bank, financial institutions and the judiciary onto a single platform to set up a multi-disciplinary team to help arrest the rising tide of finance-related cybercrimes in the city. A pilot project, with a dedicated number to register complaints and the concept of CIR (Cyber-crime Information Report) to ensure a faster response, seeks to proactively prevent such criminal acts.

A personal initiative of Pant, the ”cybercrime response framework” was launched in April and the garden city saw only 4,927 financial cybercrimes as of July-end, which is much lower than last year. The framework considers financial crime as a ”sandbox” and the complaints will be handled by the multi-disciplinary team, involving police, bankers, judiciary people and officials from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

“To begin with, we”ve set up a multi-disciplinary team that involves the CIR or cybercrime information report and not an FIR as was the case earlier, to help victims file a complaint from anywhere with just a call to the special number,” Pant told PTI from Bengaluru. According to him, the team comprises a nodal police officer for the bank, a nodal banker with each bank with powers to freeze/block an account on request from this nodal police offer, a dedicated telephone number for each financial institution, which is an extension of the existing emergency response system Namma-112. “The dedicated cops have to attend to the calls within 30 seconds and forward it to the police station under whose limits the alleged crime took place,” he added. Instead of the usual police procedures of typically starting with filing an FIR, the CIR is a much simpler process, he said.

An individual can call up 112 and the call is forwarded to the CyberCrimes Response Unit and a complaint is recorded as a CRI after authenticating the caller. In most financial cybercrime cases, Pant said the victim is more interested in getting the money back rather than pursuing a lengthy complaint process and the new framework will help in resolving such crimes that are typically high volume low value (Rs 5,000-50,000). Ashwin Punja, a manager with the RBI regional office in Bengaluru and who was involved in the entire project from planning to execution, told PTI that between the launch of the pilot project in April and July-end, only 4,927 cybercrimes involving financial fraud were reported in the city. During this time, the police got the banks to freeze 2,346 accounts, involving Rs 51.97 crore, leading the banks to refund only around Rs 14 lakh. Of the total registered cases, 2,456 were resolved and 2,471 are pending, he added. Pant said the city police set up a 50-member core team to man the entire seven divisions of the city, with each station having a special cyber cell now, while earlier it was centralised at one station. And the success has led to many state police chiefs seeking help to replicate the project, Pant said, adding even political leadership in those states are keen to learn from the success.

Punja said Hyderabad police has already contacted the RBI to replicate a similar project. Within a month or two, Pant said the pilot project will be upgraded to a permanent set-up as a cybercrime response framework that will treat all financial crimes as a sandbox. Regarding RBI”s role in the project, Punja said as the regulator, it got all the banks and financial institutions on board and then ensured that each institution has a nodal officer for cybercrimes. We also got them to create a generic email id, set up a dedicated telephone number to which the dedicated police officer can call for a quick response, Punja added. Anil Kumar — who was a senior director at Yahoo India and was brought in as a technical advisor for the project — said cybercrimes occur because there is no coordination between the public, police, and banks. Under the existing system, a victim has to personally file an FIR within 72 hours, which is not always possible. For the police, the problem is primarily the lack of legal backing to get an account frozen, and the lack of a dedicated person at the bank to contact. Both these lead to slow responses. “So, Pant wanted each bank to appoint a nodal officer with the power to freeze an account after a call from a dedicated police officer and a dedicated number to make the call to. This helps in identifying the banker and the cop. He then moved the high court to get some legal backing to secure the banker from punitive action as also to appoint a nodal judicial officer to deal with cybercrimes related to finance,” Kumar said.

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