The Railway Protection Force in Gujarat has unearthed an inter-state racket of travel agents, touts, and software developers, who bought confirmed tickets worth Rs 28.14 crore from the IRCTC portal using illegal softwares and sold them to travellers at a high commission, an official said.
The RPF team of the Rajkot division of the Western Railway (WR) has so far arrested six persons and recovered 1,688 unsold tickets worth Rs 43.42 lakh from them, Divisional Security Commissioner of Rajkot RPF, Pavan Kumar Srivastava informed on Wednesday.
The fraud was underway for the last few months.
A thorough investigation into their modus operandi has revealed that apart from illegal softwares, including the one to generate fake IP addresses, these accused used "disposable" mobile phone numbers and email addresses to create user IDs on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) portal to get the OTPs (One-Time Passwords) for booking the tickets, said Srivastava.
"Based on a specific tip-off, our team had arrested Rajkot-based travel agent Manan Vaghela in May. Using illegal software, Vaghela used to purchase confirmed railway tickets from the IRCTC portal in bulk. Later, we arrested one Kanhaiya Giri from Mumbai in July for selling the software," he said.
The RPF had also caught software developer Abhishek Sharma from Vapi town in the Valsad district of Gujarat. While Giri was the 'super distributor' of dubious softwares, such as COVID-X and Black Tiger, Sharma used to develop them.
Based on the information provided by them, RPF caught three other members of the inter-state gang identified as Aman Sharma, Virendra Gupta, and Abhishek Tiwari. They were arrested from Mumbai, Valsad, and Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, respectively.
"Since IRCTC has capped the number of tickets that can be booked from a single computer, the accused developed software to generate several fake IP addresses. This would help them in booking tickets in bulk using a single computer," the senior RPF officer explained.
He said certain travel agents were provided with "disposable" mobile phone numbers and email IDs by the gang to create fake user IDs on the IRCTC portal and to get the OTP for each ID.
"Tickets worth Rs 28.14 crore were purchased using such fraudulent means and the gang members earned a huge commission by selling those tickets," said Mr Srivastava.
Senior Railway officials are also analysing the information provided by the accused so that such technical loopholes are plugged in to stop the misuse of the e-ticketing system.