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What the National crime records bureau report does not tell us about Cyber Crime in India

It presents an inaccurate picture by counting only police cases and not complaints

In July 2015, an Azerbaijani woman emailed the Delhi police complaining an India-based man was blackmailing her and threatening to upload her morphed pictures to pornographic websites. In two months, the man was traced in Haryana’s Kurukshetra town and briefly detained. But the incident did not make it to the Crime in India report for that year. That is because the complaint did not result in a First Information Report, and the annual crime report, published by the National Crime Records Bureau, counts only FIRs and not police complaints.

The Bureau is now seeking to rectify this by collecting data directly from the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System, the electronic record keeper used by police in all states and Union Territories, and streamlining the process to take into account police complaints, too. Until now, it would send proformas for police departments to fill in. A senior National Crime Record Bureau official said they plan to start counting police complaints from this year. It will help present a more accurate picture of cybercrime in India, he added.

According to the latest Crime in India report released last month, the country recorded 12,187 cases of cyber crime in 2016, 7.55% more than in the previous year. The highest number of cases was reported in Uttar Pradesh, which has a special task force and district cells to tackle cybercrime, followed by Maharashtra, which has cyber police stations in every police district. Of the cybercrimes recorded last year, 669 involved insulting the modesty of a woman, 570 blackmail and extortion and 562 sexual exploitation. Cyber security experts and lawyers, however, said these figures are “severely low” and don’t reflect the actual scale of cybercrime in India. The case of the Azerbaijani woman seems to bear this out.

She had befriended the man on Facebook and, at his convincing, sent him her pictures. The man then threatened to morph the pictures and upload them to porn websites if she did not send him $100 every month. Apparently to show he wasn’t bluffing, the man uploaded a few of the woman’s morphed pictures to Facebook, forcing her to deactivate her account, said an official who was posted with the Delhi police’s Crime Branch when the incident was reported. The woman paid him for at least six months before complaining to the police. Turned out the man had similarly blackmailed scores of women from several countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain and the Philippines, the official said, but the Azerbaijanis woman was the only one to have filed a police complaint.

The case was transferred to the Haryana police and they made the accused get down on his knees, hold his ears and apologise to the woman. They recorded a video of the apology and sent it to the woman, and closed the matter. They did not register a case because they thought the involvement of a foreign national would create hassles, the official said.

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