Udupi-Hyderabad-Delhi: How Mahesh bank e-fraud blows lid off Nigerian gang exploiting gullible Indians

Nigerian gang uses sophisticated e-machinery to send Phishing emails, links, and even calls, which remain untraceable. They do not operate in a single state- but spread out, it is a multi-layered web. The Nigerian fraud is a huge network. They attract citizens especially from the lower-income strata by offering a 'commission' in return for their bank account. Indian Citizens who give their bank account details will receive a sum of Rs 15000-20,000.

By Coreena Suares  Published on  8 Feb 2022 8:15 AM GMT
Udupi-Hyderabad-Delhi: How Mahesh bank e-fraud blows lid off  Nigerian gang exploiting gullible Indians

Hazira Fatima dreamed of a new life post her abusive marriage. Facebook proved to be a savior. She connected with a 'foreigner friend' who promised to marry her. He asked her account details so that he could pass `monetary gifts' as a token of love.. Feeling over the moon, Hazira passed on her account details (ATM and password) to her nephew Sahil Khan. In fact, Sahil had convinced Hazira to open a bank account using her Aadhar and address proof.

Her dreams however came crashing down when police landed at her home in Begumpet. Little did she realize the `man' who she loved was part of a Nigerian gang involved in the Mahesh Bank money Heist. Her account details had entered the multiple layers of the Nigerian gang. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the modus operandi of the Nigerian gang to break into the Indian banking system and defraud gullible citizens.

Last month Cyber criminals hacked the server of the A.P. Mahesh Cooperative Urban Bank and allegedly transferred over Rs 12 crore to different accounts. Telangana Police investigating the money Heist stumbled upon a middle-aged woman in Delhi- who owns a small general store. The lady's bank balance showed Rs 21 lakh.

In fact, she was convinced by her relative to open a bank account. Unwittingly, she handed the account details over to her relative, who passed them to the Nigerian gang. What led the cops to Delhi was her 'bank account' among the 129 others that surfaced during the probe. The lady and her relative were arrested and brought to the city for further questioning. The arrest unveiled the web comb of the 'Nigerian Fraud'.

The lid was blown off when the bank manager noticed suspicious transactions running into crores in several accounts. He immediately reported it to the Hyderabad police cyber wing.

Police investigation:

The modus operandi indicated the work of a Nigerian gang operating out of Telangana. Teams of the Hyderabad police went to several states to identify and question the account holders. In certain instances, the police found that the account holders do not have knowledge of the transactions or that bank accounts exist in their name. According to the police, the fraudsters transferred the amount to three main accounts and subsequently to 129 more accounts spread across the country. The first breakthrough in the case was when cops arrested two Nigerian nationals and a woman from Manipur.

"The alleged Nigerian gang first intruded into four bank accounts, after gaining entry into the main data server using sophisticated e-machinery tools. The chronology of events shows that phishing emails were sent first which helped them break into the server. Later, two systems were compromised. They changed the bank balance figures of four accounts and increased the limit. For instance, if the account balance was Rs 2000, they added 3 more zeros leading to automatic transfers" said K C S Prasad- ACP Cybercrime - Hyderabad police.

Prasad said the maximum transfer limit of Mahesh Bank is Rs 5 lakh per day. "However on that particular day, the transactions of four accounts showed Rs 5 crore. By doing so, the gang diverted Rs 12.9 Crore into 129 accounts," he said. A month before the Mahesh bank heist, Udipi Police arrested a 24-year-old from Begumpet in connection to different bank fraud.

Middle-aged Seema Rodriguez, hailing from Udupi, and currently working in Dubai, randomly connected with a Facebook 'Friend'. The chatting started with a simple 'Hi' and grew into a full-blown conversation later. She was convinced that her 'friend' was in trouble and needed a monetary favor in order to crack a multi-crore business deal. She was made to believe that her friend was rich and influential. The lady ultimately transferred Rs 18 lakh to one account, whose address showed Hyderabad.

Modus Operandi:

-Nigerian gang uses sophisticated e-machinery to send Phishing emails, links, and even calls, which remain untraceable.

-They do not operate in a single state- but spread out, it is a multi-layered web. The Nigerian fraud is a huge network.

-They attract citizens especially from the lower-income strata by offering a 'commission' in return for their bank account. Indian Citizens who give their bank account details will receive a sum of Rs 15000-20,000.

-The gang operates through 10-15 handles, which collect bank accounts and hand them over to the Kingpin. The big boss operates after 3-4 layers. Cops find it difficult to pass through all the layers.

-Every Nigerian maintains cockwines at his residence who are equally responsible for the crime.

-They primarily operate out of Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. Most of them are students who have entered India on a visit visa. The grand sends a friend request having a name of a foreigner. If the victim is poor they use their account details and if they find the victim to be rich, the gang pursued them to transfer money, in both ways they will dupe.

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