Ours is a country where everyone dreams and we mostly dream of making tons of money. That greed often makes us vulnerable to sly minds, who’re always lurking around the corner to tap into that weakness and fill their own coffers. Twenty six-year-old BTech graduate Anubhav Mittal is one such man. He tricked more than 6 lakh people into giving him their money through an online scam that promised big returns for hitting the ‘like’ button online. In a little over a year, he made Rs.3700 crore off people who fell prey to his tricks.
Mittal and his two aides — 40-year-old Shridhar Prasad, an MBA, and 25-year-old Mahesh Dayal, who served as tech support — from an office in Noida, launched Ablaze Info Solutions Private Limited. The company deployed a social pyramid scheme in 2015, telling people they could earn sitting at home. Investors were told the company got business from a third party to increase the latter’s online hits on digital platforms. People who fell for the scam were asked to pay subscription money of Rs 5,750, Rs 11,500, Rs 28,750 and Rs 57,500 – where the more you paid, the more URLs you received. Subscribers were then given a user ID and password and were told that they would get random URLs on their phone, which they had to open, hit ‘Like’ and would be paid Rs.5 per hit. The accused had set up a fake server in Ghaziabad and the fake URL links terminated on the same server.
They rented a four-storey building in Noida’s Sector 63 to set up an office and Investors were told that they would receive monthly payments in their registered bank accounts. As is the common modus operandi with such scams, existing subscribers were told, if they brought in more subscribers within 21 days, their income would increase. This process was called a ‘booster’ and, like any other Ponzi scheme, helped build a pyramid of investors.
When most people did not receive the payments they were promised and began complaining, a number of FIRs were filed and the case was handed over to the Special Task Force. During their probe, it was unearthed that more than 1 lakh people had filed complaints via emails and text messages to Ablaze for non-payment of dues.
The STF team that raided the office found 250 passports, purportedly of some high performers and employees of the fraudsters, who were to be rewarded with a trip to Australia. The investigation also led police to Rs 520 crore deposited in 12 accounts of the company registered in Canara Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank and Axis Bank.