Police in Punjab are investigating their first ever case involving Bitcoin. Unfortunately, it also involves financial fraud data being purchased on the darknet.
A group of four, two Punjab residents and two residence of the US stole Rs 1.2-crore worth of US Dollars using stole credit card data bought on darknet. Bitcoin was used to buy the information they used, as well as sharing in the stolen funds between all four involved.
Baljit Singh and his partner Amritpal Singn, both 27 years old, were arrested in Jalandhar last week. From December 2014 to February 2015 the pair scored $500 each from over 400 transactions between relatives and friends living in the US using Western Union.
“Western Union is a US bases money transfer company with hundreds of agents in Punjab. Its prime agent is the state, Paul Merchants, was the first to raise a red flag over these transactions,” the Inspector General of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Punjab Police, Ananya Gautam said.
Baljit said that he had been traveling to and from the United States with is Uncle since 2003. In his teens he came into contact with a Nigerian National named Olumu, who was orchestrating fraud related crimes at the time. The two became partners soon after and committed the crimes together. Baljit was detained by Law Enforcement for his involvement. He returned to India and befriended a Commission agent, Amritpal Singh, who was also friends with Baljit’s Uncle. The two contacted a hacker friend in the US and put him into contact with Olumu.
“This is how the gang got together. The had planned the perfect cyber fraud. Had it not been for their growing greed they would have continued to do this their entire lives and no one would have come to know,” Gautam stated.
It started by Ankit and Olumu finding data for Punjab Indians living in the US using city directories. Then the two searched out credit card details for random US citizens.
“Credit card information can be easily stolen by those who know how to do it. The card is skimmed through a machine that catches all the numbers on it and stores them. The stolen information is available for a cost on the Darknet, and Olumu could have purchased it,” Gautam said further.
“Punjabi names and addresses were used to fill remittance forms at the Western Union site in the US. A fake recipient’s name and address in Punjab were also entered. They payment was made using stolen credit card details. The amount was never more than $500, so that the credit card holder does not get suspicious. We are trying to find if the US police received any complaints,” Gautam added.
The police found over 15 fake ID’s the pair used to send the transfers. The transfers were have said to be sent to Baljit’s uncle, his father, and one other person.
A suspicious transaction report was sent in after an employee, Paul Merchant noticed multiple Id’s with the same picture on them. The information was made public in December at the time of the findings, but the first arrests weren’t made until last week.
All the earnings were shared using Bitcoin.
“Baljit claims that Olumu was in touch with him only through the internet. There was rarely any direct contact. He wanted payment through Bitcoins. Baljit bought Bitcoins and transferred them to Olumu,” Gautam explained.
Baljit, Jasvir and Amritpal have been arrested, and the search is still on for the other two accomplices. Another name was mentioned as part of the investigation but it is unknown if any action has been taken.