Fake Police and ‘Digital Arrests’: Beware of Online Scams Through Video Calls

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

8 min read
Hindi Female

In a first, Uttar Pradesh police registered a case of ‘digital arrest’ after a 50-year-old woman from Noida was cheated of Rs 11 lakh by people who posed as police personnel and bureaucrats over a video call on Skype.

The woman, who filed a case against the cyber criminals on 21 November, said in her complaint that she was “digitally arrested” from morning to night, after receiving a video call on 13 November. 

  • The culprits told her that her Aadhaar card was used to purchase a SIM card in Mumbai, which was then used to harass women and run illegal advertisements. 

  • Stating that she was “interrogated” via Skype, the victim said that her call was transferred to a person who identified himself as a Mumbai Police officer who informed her that she had been linked to a money laundering case. 

  • To sell the scam, the culprits sent her falsified documents claiming that an FIR had been registered against her, and that the Supreme Court had issued an arrest warrant in her name.

While this marks the first registered ‘digital arrest’ case, it is not the first time this has happened.
  1. On 13 October, a 23-year-old woman from Haryana’s Faridabad received a similar call, where she lost about Rs 2.5 lakhs. In her case, cybercriminals threatened to ‘digitally arrest’ her after telling her that her Aadhaar number had been used to send a large number of passports and cards to Cambodia.

  2. Similarly, in August, a 28-year-old techie from Bengaluru fell victim to a similar scam, losing Rs 4 lakh after receiving a call about her package containing narcotics and valuables being seized by Mumbai’s customs department while on its way to Taiwan. She too, was “interrogated” over a Skype call, which ended abruptly.

  3. A Delhi-based doctor was also scammed with this exact story in May, and lost about Rs 4.5 crores.

How Were People Tricked?

We identified two people who received similar calls about their packages being 'caught' or their government-issued documents being misused, who told us about their experience.

'Aadhaar linked to money laundering and human trafficking': Ashish


"I got a call on my mobile on 23 November, around 3 pm. This person said he was from TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). He told me that my Aadhaar card had been used for purchasing a SIM in Mumbai, which was being used to send bulk messages related to lottery and gambling, which was illegal" Ashish (name changed), a resident of Delhi, told The Quint.

With this, the caller told him that it was a serious issue and he had to transfer the call to the Mumbai Police, where he was questioned by a man presenting himself as a sub-inspector.

Asking Ashish to get on a video call with him, he said that he wanted to take his complaint over Skype. Since he did not have the application, he refused. "So they said they would do a WhatsApp video call."

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

The scammer appeared very convincing, as the person Ashish saw on the call was sitting at a desk with photographs of freedom fighters and leaders in the background. The sub-inspector then told him the issue needed to be transferred to another senior official.

"He supposedly transferred me to a senior police officer at the same police station. This [senior] person interrogated me for almost half an hour," he said, mentioning that the scammers had asked about Ashish sharing his Aadhar details with other people and if he knew someone who could bear ill-will towards him.


The scammer followed this by telling him that the number was also used to open a bank account, which was used for money laundering.

"He named a person called Sanjay Patil, who was a bank manager, saying that he was the prime accused in a money laundering and human trafficking case, which involved trafficking Indians to Cambodia."

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.
Ashish said that he got three documents on WhatsApp – a confidentiality clause, an arrest warrant in his name dated 24 November, and a third document, signed by a magistrate, which was an order to seize assets.

Then, his call was transferred to a person posing as a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer, who identified himself as one Ajay Gupta, before interrogating the victim for about 45 minutes. "He asked me for a lot of details, like how many bank accounts I had, where I was, which hotel I was at, why I was travelling and how much money I had in my accounts," Ashish recounts. "I didn't give him any numbers or details."

"To be honest, I was totally fooled at this time."

This is where the incident turned into a 'digital arrest', as the scammer told Ashish that he could not disconnect the call. The culprits kept insisting that Ashish stay on the call for an extended period of time.

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

"Tomorrow (on 24 November), the courts will open here. I will go and talk to the judge or magistrate and see what happens. Keep the call throughout the night," the scammer said.

Over the course of nearly two hours, about four people kept "threatening me, hammering me with charges." After the conversation ended, Ashish did not disconnect the call.

However, when the panic subsided, rational thinking took over.

After asking the culprits for some details about Patil's case, Ashish looked his name up online. "They told me that it was about three years old, but my name had been linked to it only for the past six months." Still on the call, Ashish searched the internet for more information, "but I did not find anything."

"I thought if its such a big case, which has been going on for three years, there must be something, right? I didn't get anything on this."

"That got my suspicions going." Ashish then looked for Skype frauds, CBI frauds and so on, when he found many similar cases online where people had received calls from about their Aadhaar being misused or their packages being 'caught with drugs', followed by the same sequence of events.

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

'FedEx package seized on the way to Taiwan': Sayan

Sayan Chowdhury, a software engineer in Bengaluru, received a call with the other script that the scammers use.

"I received the call on 7 August, around 11 am. It was a regular call, which started with an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) call from Fedex, which said that one of the parcel deliveries had failed," Chowdhury told The Quint.

After following IVR instructions, he was directed to a customer support executive, who told him that his package, which was being sent from Mumbai to Taiwan, had been stopped by Customs with illegal items.

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

"She then said this is serious and a case has been registered with the Andheri Police Station Crime Branch, and then they can directly connect me with the Police Station."


His call too, got transferred to the police station, where the scammers reiterated the gravity of this purported crime. Then came the video call.

"They said this is a serious offence, so either I should come to a police station or talk over Skype call," he said, telling us the he was scared after this call.

"When they asked for a Skype call, it sounded a bit strange."

Evading the direction, he said he would have to install the application and then call the scammers back. "After disconnecting the call, I checked for the parcel on the website."

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

With this, Chowdhury dodged the scam. "I've heard from friends who went on the Skype call, that (the scammers) said they have identified a criminal who is notorious for such things, but they would have to access my friend's bank accounts to verify if there are fraudulent transactions."

Though he was not contacted again, his sister, who was not aware of Sayan's call, got a similar call. "When the FedEx IVR call came and asked her to press buttons, she tried to decline the call, but it went ahead and connected her to a person anyway. She got a bit skeptical," and proceeded to disconnect the call right away.

How Do These Scams Work?

From media reports and interviews, The Quint found that these scams typically involve four people and work in four steps.

Step 1: Contact the target and tell them about a bogus criminal case against them – in these cases, the victims were accused of money laundering or sending illegal substances in packages.

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

Step 2: Impersonate police and intelligence officers.

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

Step 3: Make targets stay online for extended hours by holding “interrogations” to clear their name via video calls. 

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

Step 4: Use scare tactics to extort money, asking targets to prove their innocence.

The Quint explains in detail the modus operandi of the scams and how to save yourself if you get that call.

What Can You Do?

Chowdhury, who was able to identify that the call was a scam, had advice for others.

"In today's world, the first best solution is being careful whenever you are talking over calls from unknown numbers, interacting over emails and other media. In case of these calls, it's always better to cross check with official sources. In the moment people just end up going in the flow, but it is always good to take a break, and rethink, and re-verify."
Sayan Chowdhury, Software Engineer

In various news reports, Noida Police's Rita Yadav told publications that to avoid falling prey to these scams, one should be careful.

“In such cases, people should know that police never interrogate or question anybody digitally. If you get threats like these from people, you can ask them to send you a formal notice along with their details, and tell them that you will come to the police station to meet them.”
SHO Ritu Yadav, speaking to PTI

The Quint reached out to SHO Vinod Kumar, who is handling the case, who said that his team was working to identify the culprits and that the investigation was underway.


‘Be On Guard, Don't Share Details’: Experts

Speaking to The Quint for another story in our interactive Scamguard series, IIT Kanpur Professor Sandeep Kumar Shukla listed out some measures one could undertake to avoid falling for these scams.

  1. Always be on guard and do not trust unsolicited calls or texts from unknown numbers.

  2. Never reveal any personal details such as financial condition, your profession, your income, and so on.

  3. Do not download any apps recommended by these 'authority figures' or click on links sent by them.

With these steps, you too can avoid falling for scams and fraudulent calls. To protect yourself against misinformation or 'fake news', watch our 'Verify Kiya Kya?' series, which will arm you with the right tools to verify viral posts before forwarding them.

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9540511818, or e-mail it to us at and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Video Calling   Webqoof   Online Scam 

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