With the pandemic on the rise, people have been restricted to their homes, aggressive measures are been taken by the government to control the spread of the virus. Many have lost their jobs and are in desperate need of employment to support their family and this behavior makes them vulnerable to cyber frauds. Fake social media scams, WhatsApp university, Phishing, Fake job letters would be some examples of frauds where people are mostly targeted. More than 550 million Indians have connected to the Internet in recent years, fueled by rural growth. But the rapid proliferation of Internet users and of the Internet of Things (IoT) has also left the country’s public and private sectors vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Attacks soared to 86% in the starting four weeks roughly between March and April of 2020, according to a recent Reuters report quoting Indian Home Ministry officials and detailing “fake offers that Reliance Industries telecom arm Jio and streaming service Netflix Inc were offering discounted services” during the lockdown. Thousands of fraud portals have been opened which seem to address the need for pandemics, but in reality, they are used as a tool to amass information and use them to send fraudulent links to people.
A malware by the name of “Coronavirus Malware” is aimed at stealing bank account details, passwords, and other sensitive details and information of users.
There are also sites that showcase the immense pain and suffering of people and try to play with the emotional sentiments of people by urging them to make contributions/donations on their part to help the needy. But these are in fact phony sites that appear to be quite sophisticated, virtually indistinguishable from their genuine counterparts. Chief among these is the ‘PM CARES’ coronavirus fund, established by the prime minister’s office. At least a half dozen fake versions of the site have emerged and have successfully solicited thousands of dollars from unsuspecting individuals. Senior officials from India’s Home Ministry said that more than 8,000 complaints had been received from Indians both home and abroad who had duped into giving money to fake versions of the government’s flagship fund.
Talking about attacks on the government
There has been news about a state-sponsored hacking group supported by Pakistan that perpetrated a series of ransomware and phishing attacks aimed at stealing highly sensitive defense, security, and diplomatic information under the guise of coronavirus health advisories. Scores of Indian government officials both in India and embassies around the world found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the attacks masquerading as legitimate epidemic-related communication.
Something called a WhatsApp university has also been a prominent player contributing to cybercrime. There are a lot of fake messages and scams in circulation. It is a vicious cycle that targets people with some religious sentiments or people who are not quite knowledgeable about technology. The KBC winner scam is one of the examples of such scams where people get a WhatsApp call and are informed that they have won a whopping amount and are requested to follow some procedure to claim their prize. They entice people with a time limit and aren’t given a chance to consult with their family members or friends.
A new technique of sim card duplication used by criminals these days is called Sim Swap Fraud. In these types of fraud, the scammer calls the victim on WhatsApp or on a normal call. The catch here is people are not asked for their account details or any personal information. They are just asked for a number written at the back of their sim card and are asked to message the number, people are fueled by their greed and don’t get much suspicious as none of their personal information is asked for such as their bank account details, mobile number, Aadhar card number, etc. the target victim happily provides the sim number. At the backend, the scammers duplicate the sim card and ultimately have access to all the details, and the victim doesn’t have the slightest idea of what has been done.
Another infamous act of cybercrime was reported in Mumbai where an online fraudster was trying to sell the statue for a staggering $4 Billion, in his defense the fraudster claimed that the proceeds would be used to help the Gujarat state government fund its fight against the coronavirus. This sounds funny but highlights a flaw in the system that is being exploited for personal gains. Also, no one knows the actual intention of the scammer regarding whether he/she would have kept the money with them or used it for the state in any case this was a crime.
Cyber frauds increased during the lockdown period in Delhi as gangs and individuals targeted people with fake job letters, KYC verification, and fake social media profiles. According to data shared by police, maximum cybercrimes were reported between May and August last year — around 4,000 cases each month.
- Awareness- People should be socially and technologically aware about various frauds that happen online. Reading blogs, listening to news, watching YouTube videos on tackling cyberfrauds, talking to friends and family also helps in increasing ones awareness.
- Complaint- If a person or a group of people feel that any tactic being used by a criminal is related to cybercrime/cyberfraud, they should immediately report the incident with all the details possible. If a large number of people report similar incidence, the matter is subjected to escalate soon and given higher priority.
- Suspicion- Treat any unknown call, email, job offer, WhatsApp message with some degree suspicion, The impact of it causing you harm in any way is minimised . Consult with family or search it on the web so that you are immediately alerted and can take necessary action on it.
- Greed- One should never be greedy when it comes to money, If you haven’t applied for any lottery, how is it possible that you would have won one! One should learn that in this word nothing comes for free, and no one is so generous to donate such an amount to the public. Greed is one of the most significant reasons why people fall prey to such scams.
- Conscience- Whenever someone suspects that any sort of message or audio or call is trying to play with their emotions, one must consult with their family, friends as this gives them some time to ponder over things and awaken their conscience.
In the end, it is we who are at loss. The first step in handling any such crime is to prevent it as the famous saying goes “Prevention is better than cure”. Which holds quite true in our case as there is no guarantee that the money/ information we lost is going to be recovered. Staying on the safer side is what we all can do at the least.
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