The Mumbai police have unearthed an international racket involving the creation of fake social media profiles, the sale of fake followers and likes to
On Tuesday, the crime branch’s Central Intelligence Unit (CIU) arrested 21-year-old Abhishek Davade who works for a website called followerskart.com, which allegedly provides fake followers and likes to people for a fee using automated software known as a bot. Davade alone, the police said, had allegedly amassed more than five lakh fake followers for 176 accounts – including those of the 18 celebrities summoned – on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and other social media platforms. The police said they have found three bank accounts in his name, in which there are transactions involving around $12,000 (just over Rs 9 lakh) in the past six months.
The police said there are at least 100 such websites in India and that the crime branch has so far identified 54. Crime branch officials said they were also working with social media companies to curb this type of fraud. The police have also set up a special investigation team comprising officers from the CIU and cyber cell under the supervision of deputy commissioner of police (detection) Nandkumar Thakur to investigate such rackets. It is the first SIT formed to look into the illegal aspects of social media marketing in India.
The police said the scam came to light on July 11, when Trivedi lodged a complaint at Bangur Nagar police station alleging that someone had created a profile on Instagram using her name and photos, and was using it to scam others.
Trivedi told Mirror, “A few of my industry friends and followers recently told me they had received a message from a PR agency claiming they had got my Instagram account verified for Rs 4,000. I was shocked to see the fraudsters using screenshots of a conversation between them and the person who runs the fake account to gain the trust of others.” She added that a few of her followers and friends told her they had fallen victim to the scam.
Soon after registering an FIR, the police zeroed-in on Davade by tracking his activity online. He was arrested from Kurla by a team led by Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze of CIU under the guidance of DCP Nandkumar Thakur. The police questioned him and found that the website he was working for was part of a larger international racket involving crores of fake profiles, followers, views, comments and likes.
A source told Mirror, “During the probe we found that Dawade is an undergraduate and used to work as an office boy at a public relations firm. Around a year ago he got to know about this website, which could easily give him more income.”
DCP Thakur said that the police had also found that profiles with large numbers of fake followers were being used to spread rumours and other misinformation online.
He said, “The perpetrators have been found to be operating on Indian and foreign networks and servers. Fifty-four such Indian portals have been identified by the crime branch and efforts are on to bring the culprits to justice.” A source said that their methods were similar to those political propagandists on social media during an election.
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