After “phishing” off money by throwing the bait of winning lotteries, cyber criminals seem to have found a new way to dupe people. From e-mails, the online fraudsters have graduated to phone calls, convincing people to pass on their bank debit card details. The new trend is called ‘vhishing’ and its victims include Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s personal assistant and a former Karnataka Police chief, among many others.
A cyber crime trend earlier seen in the West, vhishing involves a conman who calls up the target after gathering information like the bank where he or she holds an account. The conman, pretending to be from that bank, would then ask the target for debit card details for reasons as varied as “upgrading debit card that would otherwise expire” to “providing a new PIN as part of security upgrade”, said an officer from the cyber cell of the Mumbai Police who did not wish to be named. Several victims in such cases fall prey to this and hand over their card details. The conman then goes on to make a series of unauthorised transactions using the card details.
“The shocking thing is that in some cases, the accused while on the call makes an online purchase using the victim’s details and then asks the victim to hand over the ‘One Time Password (OTP)’ the latter would receive on his mobile phone. There have been cases where the accused has made nearly 10 transactions while on the phone with the victim and the latter has not suspected anything,” said the officer. The cyber wing has been receiving nearly 20-25 complaints every month for the last one year regarding these cases classified as vhishing fraud.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) K M M Prasanna said, “There are rogue call centres set up across the country to specifically make such calls. In Mumbai, most of these calls come from states like Jharkhand, Bihar and Delhi.” He added that the conman would target someone based in another state, thereby reducing the chances of being tracked down and arrested. The property cell of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch arrested eight persons from Delhi who would make vhishing calls to Mumbai around two months back, Prasanna added.
According to an officer from the cyber wing, these conmen are well trained, and are so affirmative and flawless while on a call that several victims, who are usually in the middle of work and don’t have the time to check with their banks, easily take the bait.
Alim Sayyed, a Kandivali-based shop owner, received a call from the “ATM department” of his bank on April 2. The caller said his card was going to expire in the next few days, and that they would need to upgrade his card so that he could continue to use it without any hitch. On that excuse, the caller got his debit card details and soon 12 transactions took place and he lost Rs 40,000.
In the case of Vivek Bimanwar, Fadnavis’s PA, the caller after finding out his bank and account details, pretended to be calling from there. He told Bimanwar that the bank was “verifying his card” and needed the PIN to proceed with it. Since the caller had some details about his account, Bimanwar proceeded to give the details, only to receive an SMS from his bank later that Rs 60,000 had been debited from his account.
When asked about how these conmen get the personal details, the officer from the cyber wing said, “We suspect they use databases available online. For example, they use details on job portals and after going through bio-datas and call up the person. We need to find out how they get access to bank database.”
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