Vikash Sharma

The CID Crime Branch (CB) suspects the involvement of a ‘Negerian gang’ in the hacking of the WhatsApp account belonging to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC) Manoj Kumar Patnaik.

A top crime branch official said on Saturday that the hackers are believed to have been holed up in Bengaluru as the trail of the cyber crime has been traced to the south Indian city.

ADG, Crime Branch, Sanjeeb Panda said the lead about the Nigerian operatives was obtained after some senior investigators managed to establish contacts with the hackers. From their heavy-African accent, the sleuths suspect that they could be belonging to the notorious ‘Nigerian gang’ (as the African origin cyber criminals are referred to by the police).

Moreover, the police have learnt that the defrauded amount of Rs 7 lakh had been transferred (and in some cases withdrawn) to various accounts in the country, including Bangalore.

It is worth mentioning that the online fraudsters were successful in swindling around Rs 7 lakh by sending phishing messages to contacts after hacking the WhatsApp account of Patnaik, who is also the Additional Secretary of the State Electronics And Information Technology (E&IT) Department.

The fraudsters had sent distress messages to Patnaik’s friends in the phone’s contact list and made them send the money. The money was transferred by five of Patnaik’s contacts to the accounts shared by the unknown cybercriminals.

As per the investigation so far, the hackers after receiving the money in multiple accounts, transferred the cash to other accounts located in various parts of the country. The fraudsters however, maintained Rs 1,000 balance in the receiving accounts so as not to raise any suspicion of the banks which would have raised an alarm in case of zero balance.

The process to freeze those bank accounts has already started, a top CB official said.

Pattnaik had stated that he received a call from an unknown number on his WhatsApp on Tuesday afternoon. As the caller did not say anything, he hung up the phone after around 30 seconds. After some time, Pattnaik received a call from one of his friends who inquired about his health and informed him about the distress message which he had received from the former’s Whatsapp number seeking urgent financial help for treatment.