Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Delhi:  In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind cheating syndicate, Indian railways has been duped to the tune of Rs 100 crore by fraudsters who would take refunds for used tickets by creating a fake copy of the same using stolen details within two hours after scheduled departures. The Railways has zeroed in on the biggest reason behind the perennial complaint of passengers not being able to get confirmed tickets even after turning up at the ticket counters at 8 am, when they open across India. This pan-Indian cheating came to light during vigilance checks by Northern Railway, and it was found out that for the last six months the unidentified conmen had claimed refund of about Rs 60 lakhs by cancelling tickets of train originating from national capital alone.
A senior railway official putting the total loss to over Rs 100 crore said: “If gone through the conservative estimate based on fraud detected in Delhi, in all possibilities the number will go up many times after taking into account similar frauds conducted in other cities, especially the tier two and three. Final figure can be calculated only after carrying out intensive checking and investigation across the country, but our initial estimate is roughly Rs 100 crore.”
This would also remind us on the vulnerabilities in the Information Security and Data Privacy and Policy Compliance parameters that proved to be vulnerable to attacks on entire Indian Railways.
Explaining the unique modus operandi of the gang, the senior railway officer added: “After procuring the passengers’ details either by hacking or assistance of an insider, the gang members would wait till ninety minutes from departure of the train. They would then approach any reservation counter in any part of the country and would ask the official to claim the refund citing his inability to travel.”  Officials added that gang members used place names like Vijayawada and Madurai and other remote areas in the South and North-east to claim the refund.
Railway sources told that an insider may be helping the miscreants by providing passengers details.
With this, Railways is now planning to investigate such cases across the country.  Once this type of fraud is curbed, there are ample chances of securing confirmed train tickets on popular routes by the general public.

This is why you can never book a ticket at 8 am

Also, an internal investigation revealed that every day, 4,000 confirmed berths would be hoarded by touts within one minute of the computer reservation system being thrown open to public.
The probe found that the touts, who sell tickets at a higher price to passengers in need, were exploiting a “facility” in the passenger reservation software. The facility allows someone who has already purchased a ticket to alter journey details and book another train within seconds at the last moment.
Touts would buy tickets for relatively less popular trains a day earlier, and then swap them for tickets on popular trains — Rajdhanis, Durontos and other long-distance trains — between 8 am and 8.01 am. This would take seconds since their booking details were already fed into the system.
“Touts would buy any ticket a day in advance and the next day, they would get ticket details changed. The booking clerk merely had to generate another PNR with the passenger details already fed into the system a day earlier. This took seconds,” Ajay Shukla, Member (Traffic), Railway Board, told media. “We have now disabled this facility for the first hour after the system opens,” he added.
The probe, launched after the Railways Ministry found a huge number of tickets being booked this way, also indicated that booking clerks and other insiders were involved in the racket. The ministry plans now plans to pinpoint the culprits and take action.
After disabling the facility for the first hour, the Railway Board officials monitored the booking pattern across the country for the past few days. Now, instead of 4,000 journey/train changes in the first minute, only a few such changes are made in the course of the day. “We believe those are genuine transactions by passengers altering their journeys,” Shukla said.

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