Phishing season: Cyber criminals have adopted innovative means to cheat people.

With Uttar Pradesh topping the list of cyber crime cases in the country, ADITI VATSA takes a look at a few cases of online financial fraud reported in Noida.

Written by Aditi Vatsa | Published:March 20, 2017 3:43 am
delhi, noida, noida scam, ponzi scam, phishing scam, noida ponzi scam, ponzi scam online, online scam, india news, delhi news, noida news From calls and messages with offers of earning a quick buck, threats of freezing bank accounts, to online ponzi scams, cyber criminals have adopted innovative means to cheat people. Illustration: C R Sasikumar

On October 27, Virat Kapoor from Noida, who works as a French translator, received a phone call from a man claiming to be a manager at the State Bank of India in Noida sector 2. The man, Amit Sharma, said the call was part of the bank’s verification process.

“Around a month ago, I got an SBI credit card. The man had details of my account. He knew the last four digits of my card, the registered phone number, my name and some other details. I was asked to share these details over the phone as part of the verification process. The man said my account would be blocked if this verification is not completed,” Kapoor said.

As Kapoor quizzed the man on how he had acquired the information, he received four messages on his phone.

“While I was talking to him, I got messages which showed that nearly Rs 2.5 lakh was withdrawn from my SBI and HSBC bank accounts. Another Rs 80,000 was withdrawn from my HSBC credit card while Rs 19,500 was withdrawn from my SBI account. Then I received yet another message saying that Rs 1,36,045 was withdrawn from my SBI credit card as well. When I asked him about the messages, I was told not to worry,” he said.

Kapoor is among 78 complainants in Noida who approached police after becoming targets of debit and credit card fraud this year. In 2016, the number of such complaints registered with Noida Police stood at 259.

From advertisements on their websites promising earnings by clicking links to raising false alarms about freezing of bank accounts and luring job seekers with false employment offers — cyber criminals have adopted a range of measures to dupe people of money.

With an increase in penetration of internet services, the country has witnessed a 20.5 per cent rise in cyber crime cases between 2014 and 2015. The maximum number of such cases were reported in Uttar Pradesh.

Fake job offers

In September 2014, V D Kamble (25) from Pune was on the lookout for a job and shared his personal details on an online job portal. He received a call from a person who claimed to be from a placement agency.

“Kamble was told he had been shortlisted for a job. However, the caller asked him to deposit some money as registration fee in an Axis bank account. He received a second phone call, asking him to deposit Rs 18,000. He was also asked to provide another bank account number, its username and password,” a senior police officer said. In the days that followed, a sum of around Rs 1.5 lakh was withdrawn from both accounts.

This case led police to a Noida-based call centre, where they busted the fake job racket and arrested the operator, Kunal Swaraj Singh. Police said the company would purchase details of job seekers from online portals, contact them and then dupe them of money. It had cheated nearly 600 job seekers of more than Rs 2.5 crore.

According to Noida police, the number of such cases stood at 121 in 2016. Since January 2017, around 38 cases of job seekers being duped have been registered in Noida.

In yet another such case reported in October 2016, the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) raided an office in Noida sector 63.

“The fake call centre would get in touch with insurance account holders and offer them a bonus. They would also dupe people by telling them that their computers were not secure — they created a false technical problem and charge money to fix it. The victims would get pop-up messages on their computers saying their systems were not secure, and to make an online call to a phone number which belonged to the call centre,” a UP STF officer said.

Ponzi scams: Money for ‘likes’ and ‘clicking links’

On January 31 this year, Dinesh Singh, a resident of Surajpur in Greater Noida, approached police alleging non-payment of “salary” by an online trading company. He had invested money in an online portal — socialtrade.biz — which offered a scheme to earn money by “liking” pages online.

The investigation was later transferred to the UP STF, which looked into the functioning of Ablaze Info Solutions Pvt Ltd — the company running the scheme — and unearthed a Rs 3,700 crore ponzi scam. The STF arrested the company’s head, Anubhav Mittal, and two other employees for duping as many as six lakh people.

According to investigators, the company promised daily earnings and monthly returns to investors. People were asked to deposit different amounts — in multiples of Rs 5,750 — in Ablaze accounts. Investors would then receive Rs 5 for “liking” pages whose links would be sent to them by the company.

On February 12, Noida sector 20 police station received a similar complaint against a company — Webwork Trade Links Private Limited — located in sector 2. A resident of Ramprastha Colony in Ghaziabad alleged that he had bought six user account IDs of the company by investing Rs 3,45,000 in October 2016.

“As per the complaint, these IDs were valid for one year. Users were required to log in to their accounts on on the website and click advertisement links, for which they would be paid a certain amount. However, the complainant began to face problems as the website would become slow or not open. Payments were also irregular. When he called the company to raise these concerns, there was no response. He later alleged that he was threatened,” Anil Pratap Singh, SHO, Noida Sector 20 police station, said.

An FIR was registered against the company’s directors, Anurag Garg and Sandesh Verma, under IPC sections 420, 467, 468 and 66 of the IT Act.

Documents accessed by The Indian Express show that on February 13, the website — web-work.in — carried a notice by the directors stating that the company was established in September 2016 and that operations were going to be shut down till April 20 due to “changes in banking system”.

The notice also assured investors that their advertising licences, money invested and their returns are safe.

“Earn up to Rs 6/- Publishing Task Fees with Unique ABC, Associates Web-Work Social Commerce Advertisement & Publishing Platform,” the website read. The site offered five kinds of “publishing packages” in multiples of Rs 5,750. “… The licence fee depends on the number of daily assigned published tasks, to advertise product links of registered and subscribed merchants on addsbook.com site,” it further stated.

At present, the site is blank except for a notice which reads, “Website is closed till further notice” .

Cyber cell operations

With cubicles divided into units such as “e-mail tracking”, “data acquisition and recovery”, “social media investigation” and “mobile phone surveillance”, the first floor of a building in Noida’s sector 6 hosts the state’s first cyber crime centre — Centre for Cyber Crime Investigation (CCCI).

Inaugurated in May last year, CCCI is headed by Superintendent of Police (city) Dinesh Yadav who leads a team of around 10 people. Set up with contributions from various government and private agencies, the centre has a mobile forensics kit, disk imaging tools and a data tool kit.

While 780 cyber crime cases were reported in 2015, the figure stood at 833 last year. This year, 511 complaints have been received by Noida police so far. Of these, 384 were online financial fraud cases.

Pointing to a dozen booklets on his desk, Yadav, said, “These are questionnaires for my research.” The officer is conducting a study on “Management of Cyber Crimes — Issues and Challenges” for his PhD.

“As part of the research, I will be getting feedback from various social sections on their internet usage, the devices used for browsing the internet, the kind of internet usage — for social media, gaming, financial transaction — and software used by people,” he says.

Elaborating specifically on the various forms that online financial fraud has taken, Yadav said, “Cases in which credit and debit cards of people are misused or job seekers being duped are a form of social engineering activity. A person gets a phone call where he/she is told that the call is from his bank and it is a part of the verification process. Faced with the threat of blocking the card or bank account, the person — irrespective of how educated and aware they are — ends up sharing confidential details to avoid inconvenience later.”

“Similarly, in the case of an unemployed person, a job is offered at a salary which is a little higher than what he/she expected. They are asked to give around Rs 5,000-10,000 as ‘processing fee’, ‘cost for verification of documents’, etc. Moreover, job seekers also receive fake offer letters via email, which look genuine,” he said.

Yadav added that many online job portals have details of job seekers. “One can pose as a potential employer. By paying just about Rs 10,000, you can see 1 lakh CVs with all their personal details,” he said, adding that the same could be done with insurance plan information.

“With some amount of internet surfing skills, a person can get basic bank details of anyone. In one case last year, a man based in Noida had procured bank details of US citizens at a cost of five US dollars. He had made cards here using those details. In March 2016, while he was shopping at a mall in Noida using one of those cards, the shop received a message saying that an international account has been used for the transaction. The message did not state that the transaction of

Rs 2.5 lakh had been turned down; it was a routine message from the bank. The man had left the store when the shop received the message. Incidentally, he decided to go back to the store to buy a pair of shoes. That is how he was caught,” the SP said.

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