E-Wallets rule flesh trade, betting

Hyderabad: Electronic wallets or money transfer gateways are the new mode of payment sought and used by flesh trade organisers doing their business under the garb of body massage, ‘friendship’ and escort services. Thanks to the slew of digital payment transactions platforms, organisers are now considering these as safer options for accepting payment compared to conventional cash transactions. Google Pay, Paytm, PhonePe, Mobikwik and Paypal India are few of the online payment gateways regularly used by such organisers, according to the police.

“The organisers prefer digital payment platform for immediate transfer of the proceeds of the illicit trade to a secure facility. When we conduct raids, the cash is seized and deposited in the court after necessary formalities so that they face financial losses. To avoid this, they are opting for digital payment,” a Task Force official said.

“To track down digital transactions, we have to seek help from the cybercrime teams and banks depending on the cases,” he added.

Of late, a few organisers had managed to obtain Point of Sale (PoS) machines provided by banks generally to business establishments. But with the instruction from the police, banking institutions are now thoroughly scrutinising requests before allotting PoS machines.

To maintain an e-Wallet account, all one needs is a smartphone and a bank account. Once the bank account is linked to the e-Wallet account, it becomes operational.

“Bank accounts are opened in some other States and account numbers and other details provided to organisers who use it to create an e-Wallet account,” the police say.

In fact, during cricket season, online betting portals and applications suggest e-wallet services as a safer option since it is easy to transfer the money to the betting accounts and vice-versa when one wins the bets.

However, the police say they are now freezing bank accounts to which the payments are diverted after tracking the digital transaction history. In a few cases of online friendship racket operating from West Bengal busted by the police, the cops managed to freeze at least half a dozen bank accounts.

KCS Raghuveer, Additional DCP (Cybercrimes), said most conmen also seek online payment since it is easier to withdraw. “Once the money is transferred to an e-Wallet account, it is immediately transferred to some other e-wallet account. Later, the money is transferred to a bank account and withdrawn via ATMs,” he said.

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