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Hyderabad: The lure of cryptocurrency appears to be stronger than the risks involved, even when scores of people in the State capital have been fleeced of crores in the last few months.

There have been at least 20 cases of fraud in the name of cryptocurrency investment under the Hyderabad City Police limits alone this year. Last year, in October-November, there were 15 complaints across the three commissionerates of Hyderabad, Rachakonda and Cyberabad, with the complainants losing around Rs 9 crore in just one month to the latest threat in the world of online fraud. There was also one suicide reported in Suryapet — a man killed himself after losing Rs 70 lakh.

Still, conmen, allegedly based in other countries, continue to cheat people here by luring them into cryptocurrency investments and duping them of lakhs in one go. The amount lost by the victims varies from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

“Fraudsters are collecting random mobile phone numbers and adding them to WhatsApp groups. A fictitious group chat is started to convince the victims about the huge profits that can be earned on investments in the crypto market. Carried away by such conversation, the victim contacts one of the group administrators and shows interest in trading,” a senior Hyderabad Cybercrime official said.

Once the victim contacts the fraudsters, the latter sends a link and asks them to download a mobile phone application and start trading. “Initially, the victims fearing risk, invest a few thousand for which they get a lakh or more as profit. Later, acting on greed, they start investing more and ultimately get duped,” he said.

The fraudsters adopt two modus operandi — one in which they ask investors to purchase and transfer cryptocurrency to an account, the other in which they are asked to send money to a company account that is a fictitious one. The victim’s e-wallet shows a huge profit balance, but when they try to withdraw it, the fraudsters charge them a commission of 35 per cent, which is again a trick to extort money.

“Inquiries in various complaints have revealed that the fraudsters are mostly foreign nationals based in some far-off country. In such scenarios, recovering money becomes difficult, unless done with the help of the Interpol,” the official said.

 

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Author: Howard Caldwell