Fraudsters eye a wider prey base

Largely restricted indoors with little human contact in the wake of a raging pandemic, attending a WhatsApp video call even from an unknown number may seem tempting.

But thatโ€™s what it takes to fall victim to a potential online honeytrap. Within minutes of attending the call, the person may receive a screenshot that may look like him having a sex chat with a nude woman. A threat to upload the image on social media follows unless money is paid.

This is among the online frauds in which gullible victims in the Ernakulam rural police limits lost around โ‚น2 crore so far this year. โ€œWe have received so many complaints from people who lost their money to such online frauds,โ€ says K. Karthik, District Police Chief (Ernakulam Rural).

Other than the โ€œOTPโ€ fraud (victims are cheated by tricking them into sharing the OTP), fraudsters deploy seven or eight different methods.

Social media advertisements for lucrative jobs abroad with real vacancies are used to trap job aspirants who pay the amount only to realise that the original employers have nothing to do with it. Victims lured by advertisements of data entry jobs end up paying rather than earning. โ€œThe fraudster finds fault with the work and demands compensation threatening legal action using bogus job contracts featuring the victimโ€™s fraudulently procured signature,โ€ say cyber police sources.

Some fall for online chats in which fraudsters pretend to choose them as conduits for charity works. The victim is then forced to pay money in the guise of getting the charity money in dollars released from the airport and then to avoid punitive action by the Reserve Bank of India for foreign exchange violations. One victim paid up to โ‚น11 lakh.

In another case, a person was duped of โ‚น1.80 lakh as prossessing fees for an online loan.

Wiping clean the bank accounts of victims through fake Unified Payments Interface (UPI) IDs by getting victims to send links and other details from their mobile phones in the guise of renewing debit/ credit cards is also rampant. โ€œThat the fraudsters have access to card details raise suspicion of potential collaborators inside the banks,โ€ say the sources.

The police say fraudsters now have a wider pool of susceptible victims now that people are increasingly spending more time online. In the majority of cases, fraudsters are found to be from remote places in Jharkhand.

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