Gullible public, greedy scammers: The equation that results in financial cyberspace frauds

Gullible public, greedy scammers: The equation that results in financial cyberspace frauds
Photo Credit: ITwire

According to a Symantec Corporation report, India is among the top 10 spam-sending countries and one of the top 5 in terms of cybercrime vulnerabilities. Sikkim too has its own share of Cybercrimes and recently have witnessed a surge in the covid lockdown phase, Internet access has improved in the state with both men and women in parity in terms of Internet usage, The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data but in the downside, smartphones and desktops of innocent users are subject to abuse and bullying-related activities.

Cybercrime is a manifestation of crime committed by anti-socials from the physical world to virtual world which is replicated in the form of phishing, cyberstalking, hate speech taking the shape of bullying, online abuse, hackers etc.

There are instances of various lucrative offers being messaged to people’s smartphone and electronic network users such as gifts, holiday packages and transfer of exorbitant sums of money. If someone gullible enough to believe these unbelievable offers and provides their bank account details and sensitive information to hackers, they’re in for a nasty surprise. 

Khusnarayan Adhikary from Lingee who has been a victim of such a crime explains that he was in need of financial assistance during the lockdown and thus, had responded to an offer of an online loan received through an unknown source. He gave his personal details - Aadhar card, PAN card and photo ID - to the lenders. Since the lenders provided a shorter repayment period (7 days to one month) the victim began to receive threatening calls and online abuse; foul language, damaging his public image and character assassination by offensive posts on social media against him through unauthorised access of his accounts were a few ways in which he was harassed online. 

He says that initially, they had offered a loan of Rs. 5000, but in practice, they only lent Rs. 3500 while the rest was deducted as part of what they claim as a ‘platform management fee’. 

‘’I have paid Rs. 1.60 lakhs till now with an interest rate of a whopping 35-40% and still receive messages to pay the remaining due,’’ says Adhikary.

Naming various apps such as liquid cash, AA cash, Moneybox, Bubble loan and Rupee bazaar, he thus appeals to the public to refrain from taking loans from these sources and recommends doing it from institutional lenders such as banks. Currently, he wants to take a legal route against the lenders. 

Mushrooming Chinese loan apps and easy fund access for the person indulging in the lending process through microfinance institutions have been the prime reasons for the rise of these scams. This is where the need for cooperation from technology giants such as PhonePe, Paytm, Google etc. arises in order reach the roots the nexus in this online mischief. 

While the Reserve Bank of India has advised the public to be wary of unauthorised digital lending platforms and mobile apps and the central bank also warning consumers never to share copies of KYC documents with unidentified persons or unverified/unauthorised apps. People can report such apps/bank account information associated with the apps to law enforcement agencies concerned or use sachet portal (https://sachet.rbi.org.in) to file a complaint. 

Tenzing Loden Lepcha, SP (CID) Cybercrime branch of East Sikkim explains about the various form of cybercrime committed through various medium like Facebook ‘friends’ where the crime is committed through appealing to the emotive side of users. 

He appeals to the public to use genuine websites while transacting money for online purchases and fake profiles that lure innocent users, lottery scams, OTP fraud and black dollar scams where the willing investors are duped with fake identity and propositions. 

He states that the cybercrime branch has launched Mission Sikkim Against Fraud Action Initiative (SAFAI) an initiative where they have informative videos to educate the masses on how cyber fraud-related crimes take places and queries are resolved.

Another victim of such a scam is Sherab Bhutia from Gangtok who was cheated through a Unified Payment Interface (UPI) platform where with just a click from his smartphone led to him losing Rs. 17,000 from his account. 

“My sister got a call from a scammer during the lockdown saying that she has to pay Rs. 2 in order to receive a parcel and she paid for it but the scammer said that the transaction was unsuccessful so she asked for help from me. By the time I realised we were scammed, it was too late because the amount had already been deducted’’, recounts Bhutia. 

His advice to others is not to make the same mistake he did, never believe in fraud calls and never share one’s UPI details with anyone. 

Jurisdictions do not bind cybercrime unlike other types of crime because of interstate ramifications due to the presence-less character and anonymous nature of the modus operandi of those operating from anywhere across the globe. Newer entrants to the world of cybercrime such as misuse of (AI) Artificial Intelligence-based deep fakes and search engines like the dark web have posed newer challenges. 

To cope with these challenges the need arises for proper training of law enforcement agencies and equipping them with necessary tools and techniques on tackling this menace in a bid to create a safer virtual world. In a world where a click can change the government, declare wars, end relations, it is crucial to build a better connection between technology and regulations.

This could be achieved through digital literacy for the rural population, proper streamlining of the common service centres in their areas, effective implementation of schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Grameen Digital Sakshat Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) which aims to make one person in every family digitally literate person. 

Further action can be taken at the state level by introducing various procedures as introduced by Interpol such as Cybercrime Collaborative Platform Organization (CCPO) which is a centralised information database and Cybercrime Collaborative Knowledge Exchange (CCKE) which is used to share information pertaining to non-police functions among multiple stakeholders. This way, caution and criticality on using the cyberspace can go a long way in mitigating the scourge of cybercrime.

By Karma Lendup Sherpa

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