February 23, 2024

Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

Mumbai Police bust global social media marketing influencers’ fraud

In a significant development, the Mumbai Police have busted an international racket involving creation of fake profiles on social media and other fraudulent activities in social media marketing business, and nabbed one person in this connection, Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said here on Tuesday.

The accused was nabbed with analytical techint (technological-intelligence) and through sources, the Crime Branch swooped in Gauri Shankar Nagar in Kurla suburb and arrested the accused. He has been remanded to police custody till July 17.

Investigations reveal that the accused is part of a larger global fraud racket which involves creating crores of fake identities on various social media platforms and making fake performance statistics like fake followers, fake comments, fake views etc., to inflate the influencers’ performance statistics.

Given the huge ramifications of the unfolding probe, Singh has announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team of CIU and Cyber Cell under Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection), Nandkumar Thakur, to unravel and curb these malpractices.

This will be the first ever SIT of such a kind that will investigate the illegal aspects of social media marketing businesses operating in violation of the IT Act, said Singh.

The police chief said that the accused has so far created over half-a-million fake followers for 176 profiles of Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and other social media platforms in order to fraudulently project them as influencers, through manual operations or using certain illegal softwares called ‘bots’.

The lid the mega-scam was blown off following a complaint by Bollywood playback singer Bhoomi Trivedi, who approached Singh on Saturday (July 11), demanding action after some unknown person/s purportedly created her fake profile on Instagram and how they were approaching other film personalities to create such profiles for them.

Singh directed the Crime Branch to investigate and Joint Commissioner of Police, V.K. Choubey, ordered the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) to take up the probe, even as a case was registered with the Bangurnagar police station in Goregaon.

The probe revealed that by manipulating the existing systems of respective social networks, these racketeers posted such fake followers, and over 100 portals are reportedly involved in these frauds all over India. The arrested accused worked for one such portal, www.followerskart.com, according to the police.

The Police Commissioner said that this is the first time such a racket with international ramifications has been busted in the country, and such fake profiles and followers are also being used to create rumours and panic in the society.

The CIU probe found that more than 100 such Social Media Marketing (SMM) portals provide fake followers etc. through fake identities and/or bots, and the scamsters operate through Indian and international Internet networks and servers.

The CIU has already identified 54 such Indian portals and now action is being initiated against them, he said.

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