Sachin Bharti, a Thane resident, was happy when he received a phone call from his car company, a month after his car dealer refused to solve his car problems.
Bharti had bought a Maruti car in October for Rs 11 lakh. The car, however, soon developed suspension problems. He then approached the car dealer who told him that it was a small problem and he could do nothing about it. A frustrated Bharti then put up a grievance on a consumer forum portal.
Thereafter, he received a call. The caller claimed that he was from the car company and asked Bharti to take his grievance off the portal and in return the amount he had paid for the car would be refunded.
Initially, Bharti wanted a car replacement. However, eventually he gave his bank and other details like a ‘one-time password’ to get the money back.
Instead of getting Rs 11 lakh along with Rs 1.90 lakh for the “mental trauma he had to undergo”, there was a debit of Rs 46,000 from ‘The Mobile Store’ in Gurgaon.
It later turned out that the caller was not from the car company, but a cyber fraudster who went through consumer forum portals to scan probable victims and get information about them so as to win their trust and thereby con them easily.
However, consumer portals are not the only ‘source base’ for cyber criminals, according to experts. They also scan online job portals, matrimonial websites and social networking profiles to look for people expecting a call from representatives of these sites.
“Why would they bother with cross-checking when they are expecting a call and think no one else knows about it? In case of Bharti, according to him, the only three sides who should have had any interest in the matter was the company, the consumer forum and him. He had no clue about prying eyes looking at such portals, trying to zero in on their latest victims,” assistant inspector Jeetu Kadam of Kapurbawdi police station in Thane, probing Bharti’s case, told The Indian Express.
Earlier this year, the Mumbai Police had arrested five fraudsters from Noida who would use data on top job portals to call up people and offer them jobs that they had showed an inclination for. The accused used to then ask them to deposit a certain fee to get the dream job and would eventually disappear after getting the money.
Similar rackets were busted across the country, this year. The Central Bureau of Investigation had also made an arrest from Bangalore. The arrested had allegedly used online data to lure job seekers.
Additional Commissioner of Police KMM Prasanna said that the thumb rule in such cases should be not to transfer money. “People get duped after fraudsters
glean through their information on matrimonial websites and job portals and then call them. One cannot stop putting up information online, but has to be alert the moment a monetary transaction is mentioned,” said Prasanna.
Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi said that earlier fraudsters would send millions of generalised messages, telling people they had won a lottery. “Now they have realised that people don’t fall for it. Hence, fraudsters send specific emails after researching about the person,” he said.