In new-age data theft, fraudsters steal thumb prints from land registries

Fraudsters are stealing data, including thumb prints, from land registries on Haryana’s land records website to create duplicate prints on silicon, and committing fraud by withdrawing money from the Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of victims. This new modus operandi adopted by conmen has prompted the Faridabad Police to write to Haryana’s land records director recommending that the official website and app, where the state’s land record documents can be accessed, be audited for loopholes.

Police have also suggested that only the first page of the sale deed be made visible to the public. Nitish Aggarwal, DCP (Headquarters), Faridabad, said, “We have written to the land records department regarding these loopholes to put a stop to these frauds. A similar case had been reported in Palwal earlier. An investigation is ongoing.”

Amna Tasneem, director, consolidation of land holdings and land records, Haryana, refused to comment.

In the letter from DCP (Headquarters) on May 10, police said the matter was in reference to a case traced by Faridabad Police related to Aadhaar-enabled payment system (AEPS) fraud, where victim’s money was withdrawn by creating their forged biometric thumb impressions.

Police said fraudsters access the website (jamabandi.nic.in) and download registration sale deeds for that day by filling in information like the district, tehsil, random date and captcha code.

“From any registered sale deed, the fraudsters copy thumb impression on a butter paper and then create duplicate silicon thumb (prints). These silicon thumb impressions and other details are then used to withdraw money from Aadhaar-linked accounts using AEPS-enabled POS machines,” the letter read.

It added, “Since many frauds are happening in this manner because of easy availability of thumb impressions and other details of the victim on the sale deed, it is highly recommended that only the first page of sale deed should be made visible for general public. Also, the whole website should be audited once again and other loopholes, where personal data is compromised, should be rectified.”

Sources said that earlier this week, Faridabad Police arrested three accused from Purnia in Bihar for allegedly duping a woman of Rs 30,000 using this modus operandi.

Basant Chauhan, SHO, Faridabad cyber crime police station, confirmed that three persons were arrested and were currently on remand. An FIR was registered under IPC sections 419 (cheating by personation) and 420 (cheating) on February 26, 2022.

In the complaint, Pankaj Sharma, a resident of Malerna village, alleged that on February 19 and 20, Rs 30,000 was siphoned off from her account in Sarv Haryana Gramin Bank in three transactions. “I did not get any message or an OTP. On February 15 and earlier on January 5, I had gone to Ballabhgarh tehsil for registry for sale of a plot. I had put my signature and my thumb impression on the registry. I suspected that the fraud was related to the registry since I had not put my thumb impression elsewhere…,” she said.

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