Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: The place is a posh area at Saheed Nagar in Bhubaneswar.  While checking his Facebook status, Manish Swain (name changed) saw a friend request from a girl nicknamed ‘Jasmine’ from Chandigarh.  Post checking her profile, he accepted the request. Online chatting began thereafter and continued for a month.

Nearly after 45-days, while chatting together, Jasmine uploaded a video (which as per police records is purportedly a nude video), and egged on Manish to upload his naked video shot. Nineteen year old Manish took a bite at the bait thrown by Jasmine.

The nightmarish days began for Manish thereafter. Jasmine started ‘extortion’, demanded a hefty amount of Rs 1-lakh. She started blackmailing Manish. Owing to unbearable mental pressure, the city youth in teens filed his complaint in cyber police station here.

As per the police lexicon, this comes under section 506, 503 and 384 under IPC, which is cyber blackmailing or threatening. Though in 2019, Odisha had registered only five such cases.  Odisha police see it an emerging threat, because between 2012 and 2019, as per a survey by an IT agency, the number of Facebook users in Bhubaneswar had grown from 1.9 lakh in 2012 to around 5 lakh in 2019. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack figure among the top 50 cities in the country having high facebook traffic.

Cyber crime in Odisha is growing leaps and bounds. As per National Crime Records Bureau, the total cyber related crime cases registered in Odisha clocked a near double to 1,485 in 2019 from mere 843 in 2018.

The Trend of Cyber Crime in Odisha  

The State is now at the 8th place in the country, though rate of crime (cyber crimes per lakh population) is at par with the national average of 3.4. This new age crime seems catching up fast in the State in tandem with national trend. This is evident from the fact that the rate of cybercrime in Bihar, which has a population that is nearly 3-times that of Odisha, and it’s capital Patna figuring among the top 20-facebook users in the country, had been mere 0.9 in 2019.

Why Odisha Police Thinks State More Vulnerable?

Odisha currently occupies the dubious number three rank in cyber offences under section 67 of IT Act, which is publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. The State topped country in section 67 –A offences under the IT Act.

With a total of 339 cases under the offence of transmitting sexually explicit act in electronic form, Odisha topped the country in year 2019. In local parlance, Odisha topped the country in circulating the ‘sex videos’ in social media. And police records show, nearly 90 per cent of the cases was registered in small towns. But the trend also hints that the menace is being widespread across the State, not isolated to any region.

“Mostly school going girls in villages were the worst victim of the so-called ‘sex video’ circulation in Odisha. Despite the section 67-A offences entailing a jail term of up to five years or Rs 10 lakh fine for even a first time offender, lack of awareness among the school going children or teen population in Odisha is responsible for rising crime under this section. District administration need to advertise the law at public places, where the caseload is high, to deter mischievous teenagers,” observed Rituparna Mohanty, women activist.

“Since ‘sex video’ circulation in Odisha is very high. The risk of cyber blackmailing in Odisha is assessed to be ‘very high’ in the State,” reasoned a senior police officer at cyber cell in Crime branch.

Electronic Financial Fraud In Odisha

When it comes to financial fraud in the electronic format, Odisha again occupies the dubious number 3 in country with a total of 956 cases in year 2019, reveals NCRB data. But State is 2nd in online banking fraud after Madhya Pradesh. But online job fraud cases are also on the rise in the State in the pandemic year.

 “The vulnerability to online cheating heightened during Covid-19.  Due to high jobs losses in COVID-19 year, the activities of such fake online job agencies had increased in the State. We had recently issued an SOP,” said Bhubaneswar DCP Uma Shankar Dash.

In 2019, Odisha had recorded 25 online fraud cases. And State was not in top-10 vulnerable states in the country.

“Crime branch has issued a detailed SOP regarding cybercrime for the public. We obtain various inputs regarding the modus operandi of cyber criminals active in the State and elsewhere. And accordingly, we issue time to time SOPs for general public. Alertness on the part of public will go a long way in foiling cyber crime attempts in the State,” counselled Soumendra Priyadarshi, ADG Crime.

Watch Out The Warning Signs To Thwart Online Job Frauds:

A) Fake firms offer job without an application, interview or discussion with employers. Watch their English usages - like spellings.

B) Such fraudsters ask for your credit card information or insist on payment of a certain amount electronically (via bank).

C) The offer don’t have any salary details

D) They will say that you are paying the amount for training purpose

How TO Avoid Cyber Blackmailing?

A) Never send anyone personal photos or videos

B) Don’t discuss private details with anyone online.

C) Avoid chatting with strangers on social media

D) Keep your password secret