Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone. Image Credit: IANS

Dubai: Investigating a social media marketing fraud, the Mumbai police’s Crime Branch might soon question Indian celebrities like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, reports have said.

According to a report in a local newspaper, Mid-Day, the inquiry revealed 10 celebrities who have been paying money for gaining fake followers and re-tweets on Twitter, and Facebook likes.

Apparently, 68 companies providing such services were tracked down during an investigation that was launched after Indian singer Bhoomi Trivedi filed a complaint on July 11. She had complained against an imposter who created a fake Instagram page in her name, and used to chat with people. The fraudster then kept the screenshots of the chats and showed it to people to increase followers. Mumbai police arrested a man named Abhishek Dinesh Daude for creating the fake profile.

According to the report, a police officer, privy to the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) investigation, said the inquiry led them to a list of 10 celebrities who have used the services of one such company that helped them gain fake followers.

A rate card available on one such website, people pay as much as $52(Dh191) for one YouTube subscription and $42.12 (Dh148) for a comment on Twitter, while a like on Facebook costs $1.79(Dh6.57).

It was found that as much as 48 per cent of the Instagram followers of the two actresses are fake or bots, the police said. "We are investigating an international racket and the study is part of the basis for the probe,” an officer told the publication.

Initial investigation revealed that one such website is based in France. Hence, the team has written to the French government through the Ministry of External Affairs seeking the details of the company.

So far, two people have been arrested in the case. Among the arrested is Kashif Mansoor, a civil engineer. "This company is based out of India and Mansoor has his own website to provide such services in Indian currency, most of the B-grade celebs and small companies seem to have used his services," the officer was quoted as saying.