NEW DELHI: Aijaz (name changed), 15 years old, is sitting in the middle of lush green fields adjacent to his village in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, using a smartphone. But unlike millions of other teenagers, he is not hooked on Facebook or Instagram. Instead, he is impatient to make people his prey. Aijaz makes a living for himself through cyber crime.

Having dropped out of school in Class 8 due to his family’s weak financial condition, he learnt how to operate an excavator, but being a minor he could not get a license.

“I had no other work to do. So I started cheating people six months ago,” he says.

There are thousands of people in the country like Aijaz who rely on fraudulent online activity to make their living. These include children as young as 13 to people 45 years of age.

The number of cyber crimes is increasing rapidly in the country. According to a report by MassMatic Forensic, an ethical hacking business based in Delhi, last year there were 11,64,300 incidents of cyber crime recorded in India, compared to 9,554 incidents in 2006.

Cyber crime gangs are flourishing in states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, who hunt for victims using various ways to cheat people of their hard earned money.

While some cases are reported to police, many of them go unnoticed. According to Bengaluru based lawyer and cyber expert Mirza Faizan Assad, only 10-15% of cyber crimes see complaints being filed, of which only 1-2% of cases are solved.

Because the police don’t get proper training to investigate cases and nab the perpetrators, the conviction rate remains quite low, he says.

This has emboldened fraudsters to dupe ordinary and famous people alike. According to reports, last month cyber criminals duped Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's wife Preneet Kaur, as well as Anup Thakur, Secretary to Delhi Governor Anil Baijal, and Atul Katiyar, Joint Commissioner of Police in Delhi.

Cyber criminals don’t need technical skills to commit their crimes. They keep to easy and accessible methods of cheating such online marketplaces, e-wallets, debit and credit card frauds, etc.

24 year old Sahil (name changed) from the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh relates how he dupes people. Pretending to be a member of the army, he puts out advertisements for motorcycles, cars and other things on one of the online marketplace websites, saying he has been transferred elsewhere and wants to sell them.

If someone is keen to buy, he first asks for the courier fee which is 10% of the total amount. “Believing that I’m an armyman, they put money in the Paytm account, which actually belongs to someone else,” he explains.

“After taking the initial payment, I ask for some more money, and convince them that the courier will reach only when the amount is paid.”

He takes customers into confidence by assuring them of a refund in case they don’t like the item. “Otherwise the money will be lost, I warn them.”

He says customers have lost up to 1.5 lakh rupees for a bike being sold for 20,000.

“Only a few people are caught in the trap, while most of them abuse me and end the call.”

Cyber expert Amish Patel explains how “It is a difficult task to catch people who do organised cyber crimes, as compared to those who are doing it individually, because they know how to avoid getting caught. They do everything carefully.”

Patel also points out that many victims do not share what happened to them due to fear of police or family members. “Some people keep the whole thing hidden fearing slander, so many cases don’t even come to light.”

But several victims say that their complaints were met with police inaction. 23 year old Raja Chaudhary, a resident of Assam, says that when he went to the police station to register an FIR, the police refused by saying the inspector was not present.

Then they further refused to register an FIR saying he had paid money to the fraudsters.

“Even if there was no officer, anyone else could’ve written the report, but the truth is those people don’t want to do anything,” says Chaudhary.

Cyber expert Amit Malhotra observes that “Our country is suddenly going digital, people are using mobile, laptop, internet etc. without any knowledge, so cyber crimes are increasing rapidly in the country.”

Malhotra suggests that rapidly increasing cyber crime can be controlled by creating awareness among people. “All government and non-government institutions and organisations should make people aware of it,” he said.