March 11, 2022
DHAKA – In the quiet village of Faridpur’s Dumain, the residents do all kinds of work, from working in the field to running shops, for their livelihood. But many have chosen a more sinister path to make ends meet.
A good number of villagers are reportedly involved in defrauding bKash users.
This group of people works like a syndicate. Some collect customer details, some provide registered SIM with fake ID, and some act as fake bKash representatives and agents.
Even public representatives of the village, which is under Madhukhali Police Station, were found to be involved. Their main task is to save other syndicate members, if law enforcers try to take action or conduct drives.
This scenario came to the fore after Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police in a special drive arrested six people — including an incumbent member of Dumain union — from Jashore, Jhenidah and Faridpur in the last couple of days.
The arrestees are Atiar Shaikh (58), member of Ward-3 of Dumain union; Nasir Biswas alias Tota (26); Mahfuzur Rahman Shaikh (28); Sohel Rana alias Rana (21); Motaleb Shaikh (24); and Ratul Shaikh (22).
During the drive, Atiar had tried to stop the DB team by gathering people for protection, according to police. The Daily Star has managed to obtain footage of the drive, in which Atiar was seen gathering people to stop the officers.
Among others, Rana is mainly a student by profession, Ratul used to work as labourer in the field, Motaleb is a farmer, and Tota works in a pharmacy.
This newspaper managed to talk to Rana and Ratul, on their way to court, following the arrest.
“I used to call bKash users, pretending to be a customer-care official, and collect details from them. I would get Tk 2,500 for each user’s details,” said Rana.
Rana said he got involved with the syndicate in 2018, through a neighbour.
Ratul said, “After finishing my work in the field, I would sit in a shop, and from there I learned the scamming techniques. I started doing this with others for the last eight months.”
Contacted, Mashiur Rahman, deputy commissioner of DB (Gulshan division), said youths in a particular region of Faridpur and Magura are involved in the crime. Some local leaders were also found to be involved to get benefits.
Information has already been shared with local police, and action is underway, Mashiur said.
To hack accounts, syndicate members first take pictures of register books at different bKash agent shops. For a photo of each page, a member gets paid Tk 200 to Tk 300.
Then, one of the members, acting as a bKash agent, starts calling the users, using info from the pages. To convince someone, they mention the exact transaction time and amount.
“You have given one or two fake notes in your bundle. For this reason, a complaint was lodged with bKash office, and someone from the office will call, as your account will be suspended.”
This is what the scammers might say, Rana elaborated, while talking to the newspaper.
For the next step, another syndicate member, pretending to be a bKash official, calls the user to collect details like the PIN code.
To do this, they ask the user to add or multiply a given number with the PIN code and state that. Once the user states the number, the fraudsters easily get the PIN by back calculation.
Once logged in, the scammers transfer the user’s balance to a bKash account opened with a fake-registered SIM card. The syndicate collects these SIMs for Tk 1,000 each.
Ratul said this whole process depends on a loophole in iOS, the operating system of the iPhone. It is not possible to log into the bKash app using the same number in two android phones, but that can be done with iPhones.
TACKLING THE CRIME
Locals said a good number of villagers have been involved in this crime for around a decade.
Accepting the fact, Md Khurshid Alam, chairperson of Dumain union, said authorities are holding an awareness programme in the village, and the situation has significantly improved in the last two years.
OC Md Shahidul Islam of Madhukhali Police Station said the village is located in a remote area, 20km away from the station.
Victims often do not want to file complaints after getting their money back, and so, offenders often get released from custody.
Shamsuddin Haider Dalim, head of corporate communications at bKash, said they have already written to relevant companies to address the loopholes in operating systems, and work is ongoing in this regard.
“Besides, we have introduced an app for agents to ensure security a long time ago, but some agents still prefer using papers for their convenience,” he said.
bKash is providing yearly training to all its agents on different subjects like fraud and terror financing. “We are hopeful that the situation will improve soon,” he added.