As more and more businesses getting online the vulnerability is seems to be increasing. The portals dealing with the financial transactions are more prone to this. It is the duty of the citizen to check the authenticity of the online transaction and report the dispute immediately to the cyber cell to avoid any further damages. It is the case of cheating rupees 25 crores by an online travel portal recently came into the light in Goa.
According to the sources, Mumbai-based cyber police busted an online fraud of over 25 crores by arresting the Calangute resident for allegedly duping more than one hundred people through the online ticket booking travel portal easygotrip.com. The Mumbai police on Wednesday swung into action and got hold of the accused John Fernandes, a Calangute resident on the complaints from a doctor and a senior citizen who was duped by the accused for Rs. 29000 after they paid for the flight tickets via an online portal. The incident took place on 2nd December according to the reports.
The investigations had revealed that accused John Fernandes has been running the travel office in Panaji where the online fraud took place while the main server is situated in Nashik, Maharashtra. The domain registration of the portal easygotrip.com has been done on Andheri address in Mumbai and the development of the website is done from Bangalore. According to the reports the accused John Fernandes has been produced by the Mumbai police at the 37th Esplanade Court on Thursday and had been sent into police custody till January 4, 2016.
The complainants, Dilip Moolchandani and Basant Nagpal had apparently booked their air tickets from easygotrip.com but the booking were rejected subsequently just a day before their scheduled travel date on the excuse that the flights were fully booked. Later it was revealed that more than 100 consumer complaints have been already booked against the same business since September 2014. The complaints were registered on the online platform of the National Consumer Forum.
According to the sources, the modus operandi of the accused was completely unique. When the consumers used to demand the refund of the amount, Fernandes used to tell them that “Your money had been deposited into your ‘e-wallet’ for the future bookings.” But the subsequent future bookings would also end up in a similar fashion. The sources have also revealed that John Fernandes may also be booked for Plagiarism as most of the contents have been copied on his website from the reputed travel portals.
According to the sources, the cops suspected the work style of Fernandes through his emails. According to the police sources, Fernandes used to write highly unprofessional emails to the clients. He used to use slang words like ‘U’ instead of “YOU” and ‘UR’ instead of “YOUR”. Even for the “ARE”, he would write ‘R’.
Altogether there were four complaints has been booked against John Fernandes. The first complaint was booked by Mr. Praveen Gupta in September 2014 for getting duped for Rs. 44000 (towards the booking of flight tickets). Based on the outputs from the complainants, the additional commissioner of police (Crime) K M Prasanna devised the team of officials to handle this fraud case. The team members consist of M Rajkumar (DCP, Cybercrime), senior police inspector Sudhir Mahadik, assistant inspectors Sachin Gavate and Umesh Gaund, Constables Sunil Kamble and Ganesh Ingvale.
The team started their job of collecting the information on this case. They collected the details from Nashik (where the server is situated), Andheri (where the domain is registered) and Bangalore (where the website was developed). All these process lead to tracking down the accused John Fernandes from Calangute. The accused had claimed that he is innocent while the complaint received against him shows that he did not provide the tickets to the complainants and also not refunded their money back to them.
The investigation officers have checked the bank accounts of the accused which is made in the name of Travel Made Easy Online Pvt. Ltd. and they also revealed that before going into the online business the accused used to run a travel agency called J C Travels.
According to the statement of complainant Moolchandani, he had booked the tickets online on easygotrip.com for Goa on 22nd December for which he made the payments online. “I got the receipt and the tickets without PNR or IVR number. Subsequently, I received another email informing that my ticket has not been confirmed.” When Mr. Moolchandani got in touch with the agent, he received the mail from agent claiming that his money had been transferred to e-wallet and the same he will be able to use in future ticket bookings.
Police while going through the bank account of the accused Fernandes have realized that he has done many fraudulent transactions. “The prima facie it has been revealed that Fernandes has got fraudulent transactions of over 25 crores annually,” claimed the police sources. The police have also got in touch with the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and found out that Fernandes does not have any ‘e-wallet’ registration (escrow account to operate e-wallet)
The police have also revealed that Fernandes had started his business of travel agency in the year 2014 and his modus operandi involved luring the prospective clients into the cheaper airfare racket and once the money is transferred into his company’s account send them the message of unconfirmed tickets or send them fake tickets without the PNR or IVR numbers printed on it. The victims would leave with options of re-booking the tickets or apply for the refund after cancellations. However they never used to get their refund and after few months, they used to stop trying depending on the quantum of the amount.
There are many online complaints had been booked on the consumer forum against the accused by people from across the country which includes the places like Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Now the further investigations will divulge the truth. You please stay tuned; we will keep updated you with the more developments in this case. Meanwhile, you be careful when using any unauthenticated online portals for booking your online tickets or doing any financial transactions. Please do leave your valuable comments and suggestions on this issue.
Sources: Various Sources.