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Bangladesh - 3 weeks ago

Thousands caught in online job scams

Billions of taka siphoned

Staff Correspondent: “Earn Tk 3,000 a day at home” – almost thousands of people in Bangladesh have been cheated by the lure of such an attractive job. The number of people who have become destitute after collecting large sums of money is not less than a hundred. Most of them are businessmen and former and present senior officials of public and private institutions. However, many do not agree to open their mouths for fear of being socially stigmatized. So far, a total of 40 cases have been registered in this regard. One of them collected a maximum of Tk 25 lakh.
According to an investigation, all fraud activities in the name of online jobs are conducted from outside the country, but the principals do not take money directly from the customers. That is why they use Bangladeshi agents.
Two classes of Bangladeshis are used for fraud. One party is an agent of mobile banking institution Bkash&cash. The other side is Bangladeshi young freelancers. Most of the development and cash agents involved in this work are staying outside Dhaka. However, freelancers are from Dhaka. They are students of various colleges and private universities.

Law enforcement forces have come to know that most of the agents or freelancers they have arrested so far are in Tangail. In their interrogation, the others who got information are from Bhuyapur, Gopalpur, Madhupur, Ghatail, Dhanbari and Kalihati upazilas of Tangail. Their age is between 17 to 27 years.
Some dishonest development and cash agents in Bangladesh collect this money for themselves by cheating on behalf of fraudsters. They then give that money to freelancers. Freelancers use various tricks to send the money to fraudsters based abroad.
According to the investigation, the fraudsters give the agent number of some development and cash to the customers for investment. Customers send money to those numbers. Agents take that money and give it to freelancers. Freelancers are instructed to buy bitcoins through Binance (cryptocurrency exchange) and send money to scammers.
Recently the cyber crime department of CTTC has arrested five such people of Bangladeshi gang. During their investigation, CTTC learned that there are several such teams of fraudsters in Bangladesh. Each team consists of one development agent and five freelancers. Bkashagent only collects the money and sends that money to the freelancers bank account. Each freelancer has a different role in each team.
Freelancers do not directly collect money from development agents into their own accounts. For this work they rent bank accounts from different people. From that account, fraudsters use special tricks to buy bitcoins and launder money abroad.
Research also revealed that there is a different cycle for renting bank accounts among freelancers. They have separate WhatsApp groups. Such accounts can be rented for Tk 3,000 to Tk 5,000 per month. There are many traders who have five/six bank accounts. They rent these accounts to others. Hand over their ATM card and check book to the renter. Recently, CTTC arrested a 27-year-old Syed Anwar alias Pappu in their raid. Who rents accounts held in the name of himself and his organization to freelancers. The accounts were with City Bank.
Bkash and cash agents get Tk 10 per transaction and 2 percent to 5 percent commission on total daily transactions for aiding in the fraud. And freelancers get paid $50 a day, which is about Tk 6 thousand. The way to get money is also very easy. When customers send money to fraudsters in Bkash or cash, the agents collect it, deduct their commission and send it to the freelancers’ accounts. Freelancers keep their salary and buy bitcoins with the remaining money.
According to CTTC, based on the information received from the victims, they have so far identified the numbers of hundreds of development and cash agents who collected fraudulent money. The two institutions have been informed about this. In most cases they have suspended account transactions.
After scrutinizing the copies of various complaints and cases received media, it has been found that money has been transacted with about 80 Bkash and cash numbers. Several of these numbers have been used many times. The development numbers are 01998280628, 01932831884, 01878435234, 01614954020, 01931328650, 01968570967, 01616683496, 01321612660, 01831 404412 and 01906882862. Apart from this, the cash numbers are 01607633057 and 01607637862.
On the other hand, the banks from which freelancers have laundered more money are – City Bank, United Commercial Bank, BRAC Bank, Islami and Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited.
According to law enforcement agencies, various banks have been informed about such activities at different times. However, the work is not so much. Because, to recommend the closure of a bank account transaction, the police have to bring an order from the court. So, the police do not want to take these risks. However, it is possible to stop money laundering if the banks can identify their suspicious transactions.
How Fraudsters Collect Customer Numbers
Law enforcement forces have arrested a total of 25 people in Bangladesh for online fraud so far. All of them are Bangladeshis. They used to collect fraudulent money and smuggle it abroad. They (the arrested) do not know anything about how the numbers of mobile subscribers were collected. However, law enforcement agencies have come to know that more than 10 crore mobile users in Bangladesh have received fraudulent messages. The head of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit Asaduzzamanreceived the message. Asaduzzaman and the members of the cyber unit of all the forces of the country.
The police investigation on collecting numbers and sending messages says that fraudsters send SMS in the order of the next numbers by setting a random or guessed number, not a specific number. For example, they first dialed a number 017*001. Then change the last three letters to 002, 003, 004 and start giving random messages in this order.
They buy these messages in bulk from some SMS service providers in Bangladesh. The cost of buying SMS from them is only 17 paisa. Through this, SMS can be sent to the mobile phones of maximum one lakh customers simultaneously. The SMSs remain to the subscribers on Teletalk +88015…, Robi +88018… and Banglalink +88019…. However, no mobile operator of the country was found to be involved with sending these SMS.
In 2023, a French-based magazine called Euronews published an investigative report on ‘Online fraud traps for Chinese citizens in South Asia’. There they try to find out how fraudsters collect numbers. During this time, they spoke with WhatsApp (Meta), the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency – FBI, International Criminal Police Organization – Interpol and the EU’s law enforcement agency, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol). However, none of the agencies have specifically found any source of collection of mobile numbers.
In the report itself, the FBI could not name any specific source of data (phone numbers) collected by the fraudsters. However, they said that more than 500 job aspirants from 60 countries have complained to their ‘Internet Crime Complaint Center’ department after receiving such SMS through WhatsApp and being cheated.
Police can’t find ‘source’, trust only account number
Although there is information about who is running this business from outside the country, there is no concrete evidence in the hands of the law-and-order forces of Bangladesh. Their only reliance in the investigation is development-cash and bank account numbers.
Those arrested so far by CID, DB and CTTC in this case are Bkash or cash agents, bank account owners and renters. They have nothing else to do.
However, the police investigated on the basis of three/four numbers from which mobile and WhatsApp numbers were used to send job messages to customers. They go to the ground and see the numbers of farmers, laborers or common people who use button phones.
Recently, while investigating one such case, the police interrogated a person. Later it was found that the person himself did not know that a message was sent to his WhatsApp number.
What is role of Telegram?
This type of fraud spread worldwide is also called Telegram scam. The fraud is being done with this app which is famous for keeping the messages of the customers safe. However, Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies do not get any cooperation from them.
A police officer investigating the matter, on condition of anonymity told that BTRC and law enforcement agencies are in regular contact with platforms like Facebook and YouTube. They cooperate with various information. However, this support is not available from Telegram. If they had good intentions, such crimes could have been stopped immediately. They should close suspicious accounts.
Media sent three questions to the Telegram press team on May 4 to find out whether the company is aware of the Telegram scam. It asked whether they had received any complaints about the scam, whether they had taken action against any accounts suspected of being involved in the scam, and what their comments were about people involved in such crimes.
However, till May 20, the Telegram press team did not send any reply in this regard.
No one knows how much money has been smuggled.
No one has a precise account of how much money the freelancers have smuggled out of the country through this fraud. However, after arresting a gang, the DB alone said they believed the gang had laundered Tk 200 crore in the last two years. However, no other agency could provide any information about the amount of money laundering.
Awareness only way to avoid fraud
Law enforcers say awareness is the only way to avoid this online job scam. Additional Deputy Commissioner of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit, Cybercrime Investigation Department (recently promoted to the post of SP) Md. Nazmul Islam told that online job scams have become a deadly trap in the country. Recently we are getting many such incidents, people have lost lakhs of taka. Personal awareness is the only way to avoid this fraud. Many customers can regularly get such job advertisements and links on mobile or WhatsApp. Links are not clickable at all. Also, delete those messages and block the number immediately.
According to the police, if someone is a victim of such fraud, he should immediately go to the nearest police station and file a case. The victim can go to the police station and file a case under Section 406 and 420 of the Penal Code. Section 406 defines ‘criminal breach of trust’. The maximum punishment for this crime is three years imprisonment or fine. Or both jail and fine. According to Section 420 of the Penal Code, a charge of misappropriation of property by fraud is punishable with imprisonment for seven years or with fine or both.
Why Bangladeshis target of foreign fraudsters?
Even before this, foreigners have fallen prey to scams like dolansers, bd click centers and honey traps. They are more inclined towards the people of South Asian countries, especially Bangladesh. When asked why Bangladeshis are being targeted again and again, Associate Professor of Social Welfare and Research Institute of Dhaka University and expert on society and crime Dr. Touhidul Haque said that usually simple-minded people are affected by such advertisements. They send money by contacting the address or mobile number and become desperate to arrange their own job. Later they were deceived. Although such complaints have been going on for a long time, there is a lack of effective action in taking necessary steps. In this case, it is necessary to set a precedent of taking quick action through investigation if a complaint is received.
“Lately, many forms of such criminals are being noticed. Due to technical skills, it takes time to arrest them or take legal action. However, in the reality of Bangladesh, the individual has to be extremely careful and vigilant and not be influenced by such advertisements to create the ability to participate in the competition to ensure employment through knowledge, educational qualifications and preparation. Besides, if an example can be set through law enforcement, such criminals will refrain from fraudulent tactics.
What Freelancer-Leadership Says
Bangladesh Freelancer Development Society (BFDS) President Tanjiba Rahman said that those who are involved in such crimes and scamming cannot be freelancers in any way. We have heard many such cases of people misidentifying themselves as freelancers.
Freelancers are given an ID card. They have to work for two years to get ID, need to have job growth. There are some other conditions. So those who are caught doing such scamming are not freelancers by any means. If the cyber police sit with us, we will be able to identify them in these matters.

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