Beware of Internet frauds

Abha Mahajan
Frauds are not new. They are as old as the civilization itself. And today Cyber threat continues to increase in scale and sophistication at an extraordinary rate with increased digitization and access to technology at common man’s hand. Getting to know the Cyber Crimes is the best way to prevent them. Every now and then, people are getting defrauded in cyber space. India has been placed at a high rank as far Cyber Crime rate is concerned. Also, the settlement rate is also very low, keeping in view the complexity of such type crimes.
Some commonly committed Internet-based frauds
Internet Sales: These include selling of fake or counterfeit items or taking payment without the intent to ship or deliver the ordered items. A number of fake online stores exist in the cyber space and their websites are seemingly like any other authentic and legitimate online retailer like Amazon etc. Once the victims enter their payment information for orders, the money is deducted and scammers disappear.
The Bait: Often such web sites offer the popular products at deep discounts to lure the victims in.
Website Misdirection: This happens when the fraudsters mimic the reputed online retailers such as Amazon, Avast etc, thereby redirect the customers to another website. The customers are made to believe that they are purchasing from a genuine seller and hence they enter their payment details for a buying a product that is actually from another seller.
The Bait: Popular products are shown with discounts and the consumer is social-engineered to follow the links through google search / social media.
Charities Frauds: Criminals take advantage of the fact that some people generously donate to worthy causes. Criminals take advantage to solicit people to make donations to various causes that donot actually exist.
The Bait: Appealing and fancy portrayal of causes is made to catch the emotional quotient of the people. Further, they become active as and when a natural calamity hits or a cause hits the headlines of the news.
Work-from-home scams: Criminals pose to provide good pay-off to the workers, and ask people interested to work to pay a fee upfront. This fee is collected and then no job or payment is assigned. Scammers even invite people to do things like virtual interviews so you let your guard down. The offer letter comes in Company logo and all.
The Bait: They promise easy money in exchange for a few hours of work. Young people who are eager for employment are targeted via such scams.
Pyramid Schemes: Online Pyramid schemes are also on rise today. People are often promised of big returns on their investments if they are able to recruit others in their network. Here, no genuine product or service is sold. Often a fee is charged to join the program. These often collapse too soon.
The Bait: Promises of high returns in a short period and promises of passive income.
Identity Theft: The fraudsters often gain access to the credit/debit card details, bank account details, and other personal information of the victim through various modes like Phishing or using social engineering skills and use such details for personal gain.
The Bait: The victims are generally social engineered to provide their details by themselves. The fraudsters may simply use ‘Shoulder Surfing’ to gain access to card/card details or may use sophisticated phishing links wherein the user puts in the sensitive details all by himself or may use Vishing ( voice phishing i.e. through phone calls ).
Debt Elimination: Many fake companies produce ads and other promotions to eliminate every type of debt a person is in, from credit card bills to taxes, by paying a partial upfront payment. The people in heavy debts share their credit card/other payment information with fraudsters, who give nothing in return but use such information for personal benefit or may sell such data over dark-web to other fraudsters.
The Bait: People around the world are now living in various types of debts and once they are in heavy debt, they are ready to take risk to eliminate debt.
Theft of Digital Intellectual property: This is using the internet to steal other’s ideas, concepts, or works. Downloading, transferring files, hacking, and pirating media and audio clips that are copyright and trademark protected. This includes names, logos, symbols, client list and more. Software Piracy is another example of this type of theft.
The Bait: Any company / individual having presence online has been the victim for theft of Intellectual property.
Social Media Hacking: The fraudsters take control of an individual’s social media handles and gain access to the followers or friends in his name. This is sometimes done without the individual getting to know that his account has been hacked. This then provides the false account the ability to send out mass emails to inboxes or send weird posts/messages to trick others. Sometimes fake social media account are also created in the name an individual, which are then used for malicious intents.
The Bait: Mostly such attacks happen when safe measures for handling one’s social media accounts are not followed by individuals, like insecure passwords, same passwords for all accounts, using the account login from public networks/computers and not logging off etc.
Cyber Stalking and Cyber Bullying: Cyber Stalking and Cyber Bullying is the use of Internet or other electronic means to stalk and harass an individual. It may involve harassing, threatening, leaving messages, sending emails constantly, posting objectionable pictures/text, installing surveillance equipment etc.
The Bait: The online presence of individuals, is easily accessible, as has never been. Mostly women, old people, psychologically weak people or children become the targets of this type of crimes.
Frauds in the name of verifying Income tax refunds, payment of minimal Electricity Bill payment to avoid disconnection, customer-to-customer business platforms like E-Bay, QR-code scanning for receiving money, lottery winning etc are also very common. A number of fake Trading apps are also active, which promise low fee and high returns.
Cyber Laws for cybercrime in India:
Cybercrime against individuals is governed by:
Information technology Act of 2000( ITA),
Informational technology Amendment Act 2008 ( ITAA) ,
and the Indian penal Code (IPC).
Reporting a Cyber Crime
All incidents of Cyber Crime in India can be reported at Also, you can call on 1930.
Here, the mandatory information to be furnished is:
Incident Date and Time.
Incident details i.e description.
Soft copy of any national id of the complainant.
For Financial cyber fraud, the following information also needs to be furnished:
Name of the Bank/Wallet/Merchant
12-digit transaction no./UTR no.
Date of transaction
Fraud Amount
Soft copy of all relevant evidences.
Always remember, in case of financial frauds, immediately contact your bank’s customer care to block you card and freeze your account so that no further amount can be debited from there. For that, keep your bank’s customer care numbers handy always.
10 Tips to stay safe online:
Unique passwords: Use Unique, easy-to-remember but difficult-to-hack but difficult to remember passwords. Avoid using same password for multiple logins accounts. That makes things easier for hackers. Also, changing passwords frequently is a safer habit.
Logout from services: Always log-out properly from any session where you put in your sensitive information like banking login details. This is especially important when you are using public networks, cafes etc.
Beware of social engineering tactics: cross-verify any e-mail, link, phone call, and message before you click it or reply or respond to it. Be especially wary, if you are not expecting that call like lottery winning. Remain vigilant of shoulder surfing, to check if anybody is looking into the passwords you are typing.
Use Safe Site: For online shopping sites including the travel sites, especially those offering discounts, cross-check the genuineness of the site by confirming the official customer-care number available on official website. Also, check if the site is secure i.e starts with HTTPS and has a padlock symbol in address bar.
Updated OS and Anti-virus: Keep your software like OS of phone and computers updated. Install updated anti-virus.
Never let your browser remember your login details. Keep your privacy settings on.
Avoid befriending unknown people over social media. Never divulge any personal detail to such unknown friends. Also, watch-out for impersonators.
Close any unused online accounts. Such accounts can be misused in your name.
Always remember that QR codes are for sending money and not receiving any money. If you are scanning QR code, that always means you are sending money to other person.
Opt and Use 2-factor authentication wherever available. It enhances your online safety guard levels.