The cyber crime wing of Maharashtra Police issued an advisory against eSIM swapping scams, in which people have lost large sums of money in cases reported across the country in the recent past.
Officials of Maharashtra Cyber – the cyber crime and cyber security wing of the state police – said several cases have been reported in the state as well as other parts of India, wherein people have lost lakhs of rupees. Officials said these cases of eSIM swapping have been reported mainly from one particular service provider till now.
The eSIM is the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) embedded in the phone, as opposed to physical SIM cards, which can be removed. The eSIMs enable users to change service providers through a simpler process. Speaking about the modus operandi, a Maharashtra Cyber official said the target user initially receives a call from a person posing as a customer care representative of the service provider, who, under various pretexts, deceives the user into forwarding an email sent to the user’s registered mail address with the service provider. In many cases, the user is contacted under the pretext of updating Know Your Customer (KYC) details.
After the user forwards the email, they receive an auto-generated message from the service provider, asking for the registration of the e-mail address for their mobile number. The user once again receives an auto-generated message from the company, asking to proceed with the eSIM-enabled handset. Subsequently, the user is made to fill out their bank details, in most cases on a Google Form, and the cyber criminals obtain the bank details of the user. The fraudsters then activate the eSIM contact, resulting in the blocking of the phone connection of the user. The fraudsters then siphon off large sums from those bank accounts. Officials said that in most cases, elderly persons or persons with limited knowledge of internet functioning are the ones that fall prey to these cyber crimes.
The advisory issued by Maharashtra Cyber lists a set of Dos and Don’t’s. “Do not answer messages or calls under the pretext of updation of KYC documents. KYC is only done face-to-face at authorised centres. Do not to forward the e-mail ID received from the fraudsters to customer care number. Do not forward eSIM requests as instructed by the fraudster. Avoid making your phone number public on social media sites. Always use genuine software on your smartphone. If you ever come across a suspicious message, take your time to think and never click the links given in such text messages. Do not share bank account credentials on Google View Forms. If you have fallen prey to this kind of fraud, immediately take steps to stop the SIM initiation,” the advisory states.
560 cyber crimes cases pertaining to Covid
As per data shared by Maharashtra Cyber, police jurisdictions across the state have, till now, registered 560 cases of cyber crimes pertaining to Covid-19 since the third week of March. A large chunk of these cases pertain to hate speech and those giving a communal colour to the outbreak, officials said.
Since the beginning of the lockdown across the country, Maharashtra Cyber has been tasked to keep a watch on the spread of misinformation, rumours and fake news about Covid-19 on internet-based platforms, in coordination with cyber crime units in individual police jurisdictions across the state. As on Sunday, 560 offences have been registered in Maharashtra and a total of 290 persons have been arrested. As many as 120 posts have been removed from social media platforms following complaints raised by Maharashtra Police with the said platform.
Officials said that of the 400 criminal cases, 210 pertain to WhatsApp messages and 238 are from posts on Facebook. The remaining pertain to posts on Twitter, TikTok videos, Youtube videos, or audio-video clips shared on other platforms. The highest number of such cases have been registered in police jurisdictions of Beed (56), Pune Rural (48), Jalgaon (36) and Mumbai (33).
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