India lost ₹10,319 crore to reported cyber heists since April 2021, and of that, ₹1,127 crore belonging to 4.5 lakh victims was blocked due to prompt government initiatives. But only 9 to 10 per cent of the money was returned to victims, said Rajesh Kumar, CEO of India Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C).

I4C, a specialised cyber fraud detection and prevention unit under the Union Home Ministry, is in the process of working out a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) to help banks for speedier grievance redressal of online financial frauds, Kumar told reporters at the annual press conference, while acknowledging that more capacity enhancement efforts are required for better output. Senior MHA officers such as Deepak Virmani and Rupa M, who are part of I4C, were also present on the dais.

“Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asked us to find a solution. There are two good practices, one offered by Gujarat and the other by Karnataka. In Gujarat, Lok Adalat passes orders, which banks have to comply with for the release of the defrauded amount. Likewise, in Bengaluru, Metropolitan Magistrate seeks a report from local police, and on that basis, orders return of the amount lost. The SoP should be complete in next few months,” said the I4C CEO.

The trend suggests that investment scam is the most infamous modus operandi to cheat people under the pretext of making good money. Next comes loan app scam, customer care cases, which is used to get OTP to siphon off money, impersonation cases and sextortion, elaborated Kumar on the basis of data of registered cases.

Kumar advised that people should immediately dial 1930 national helpline number within one hour of the ocurance of the cyber crime which he dubbed as ‘golden hour’ since, as per him, fraudsters normally take more than that time to pocket the money illegally from the ATMs or banks. The changes of recovering online stolen money is high during golden hour, he remarked.

In India the hotspots of virtual offences -- which includes sextortion, cyber attacks to compromise confidential information and SIM related frauds -- mainly lie in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and parts of UP, while global operations are being run by organised gangsters from Myanmar, Vietnam and China, the I4C CEO informed.

According to a presentation given by the CEO, Haryana tops the states chart of the online fraud hotspots, with 381 cases, followed by Telangana 261, Uttarakhand 243, Gujarat 226 and Goa 166. Similarly, Delhi reports the highest cases among UTs at 755, Chandigarh stood second with 432 cases, Puducherry 209 and Andaman and Nicobar Islands 192 and Daman and Diu 104. “The percentage of complaints lodged has come down from 121 percent in 2021-22 to 69.7 percent in 2023. We hope to reach a point of inflection and hit a plateau given the steps we are taking to prevent cyber crime,” Kumar said.

The I4C statistics point out that since the launch of National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal in August 2019, more than 31 lakh complaints have been registered so far, which has resulted in registering of 66,000 FIRs by the states and UTs. Of the 5,000 complaints, 40 per cent to 50 per cent originate from outside the country and mainly in Cambodia, Myanmar and China, the CEO told the reporters.

Reported cases, he said, are being mapped online with details of geography, banks, numbers for analytics and the information is shared with states for actions to restrict virtual offences. Because of the crackdown against petty criminals from Jamtara and Devghar, both notorious areas for cyber frauds in Jharkhand, less number of instances are being reported, he stated. The government is also in the processes of API integration with banks to ensure seamless transfer of requests on the online network for action without any human intervention.

On cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, he stated that the G20 website post launch witnessed 16 lakh attacks per minute to sink its functioning by malicious actors but Computer Emergency Response Team (CERTIN) and NIC managed to foil those attempts. The Centre has also started the new drive to block devices through the help of Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY).

The I4C also said that 99 per cent police stations across the country are registering 100 per cent FIRs directly.