Three days before the banning orders were implemented in the Kathmandu Valley on April 29, Kanchan (name changed) sent his wife and five-year-old son to his village.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he has stopped coming to his office at a diplomatic mission based in Kathmandu. He had little work and he worked from home.
He spent most of his free time on social media sites, primarily Facebook.
One day, Kanchan, in his late 30s, received a friend request from a woman on her Facebook page. Since he didn’t know the girl, he ignored her at first. But after receiving repeated requests, he accepted it. The woman looked endearing.
Soon he started to text chat with his new friend, and during the night she started sending voice messages to which he started replying to her. Then she started sending pictures of herself naked and asked Kanchan to do the same.
“For fun, he complied,” said police superintendent Anand Aryal, also a spokesperson for the Nepal Police Central Cyber Bureau.
But a week later, in mid-May, the woman, who was overseas, asked him to send her $ 700. She threatened him that if he didn’t, she would expose his photos and the racy conversations he had with her on social media.
He quickly realized that it was a fake Facebook account.
Grieved and panicked, Kanchan called the Nepalese Police Central Cyber Bureau for help last week and shared everything by asking the police not to disclose his identity.
This is one of nearly three dozen cases of cyber-harassment recorded via the phone call to the cyber office in the past month since the ban orders were enforced in late April, according to Aryal.
“We have received complaints of online sexual exploitation and harassment, including threats and blackmail after the second wave of Covid-19 in which the offenders also came from within the country,” Aryal said.
In the case of offenders outside the country, Nepalese police have consulted Interpol for investigation.
According to the office, he receives more than five phone calls and at least two emails a day from people being blackmailed into large sums of money for lack of judgment like Kanchan’s.
“Before the banning orders, the office had difficulty receiving such complaints,” Aryal said. “We used to receive complaints mainly from women, but during the current lockdown the trend has changed and many men are complaining that they are being blackmailed.”
He said they were being asked for amounts ranging from 50,000 rupees to 500,000 rupees.
Complaints are lodged by high-level people, including businessmen, company owners, high-ranking people working for NGOs and INGOs.
“They fear being exposed and their family relationships can be put at risk if the cases become public,” Aryal said.
On Sunday, the office issued a Press release alert the public not to accept friend requests from unknown people.
“Some people with criminal minds have abused the technology and with the use of social media they manipulate social media users by sending inappropriate images, messages and videos to lure them into indecent activities to blackmail them “the statement said. “We ask everyone to steer clear of such temptations and not to be involved in indecent voice calls, video calls or texts.”
According to Aryal, people with a criminal mindset use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber and Imo to blackmail their victims.
Former Deputy Inspector General of Police Hemant Malla Thakuri sees several reasons for the increase in the number of online crimes.
“People in Nepal and most other countries are in the interior, and most of them have easy access to the internet,” Malla said. “People need money and with mobile banking it is easy to transfer money. The pandemic has left many young people out of work, and for criminally minded young people the best way to make money is to create false identities on social media and blackmail people. ”
He said cybercrime has increased due to restraining orders, monotony and abuse of social media.
“The best way not to become a victim of such crimes is to be aware of and not be in contact with strangers and not to accept requests from friends or to respond to strangers,” Malla said.
He warned that the problem could have a triggering effect whereby the emotional state is affected, often significantly, causing extreme anxiety and distress, especially because everyone is on the inside.