ON–LINE FRAUDS dot com
‘Congratulations! You are the lucky winner of the MasterCard International Mega Jackpot of 4,500,000 Pounds...' – Flashed an e-mail message even as I had opened my mail box on the Internet. It said that ‘my e-mail address had been selected for the prize on random basis, and that I should contact the ‘Claims Administrator’ whose name had been furnished in the mail. Also, I should claim the prize amount within a certain period failing which I would be foregoing it’. A breath-taking offer, indeed!
Even as I was amused at it, screamed another mail: ‘You are the lucky winner of the Yahoo/MSN 2010 Lottery Award of 500,000 pounds, selected among the Yahoo/MSN users due to the support rendered by them in the past years’!
‘You are the proud winner of the Peugeot Automobiles, London, UK’s promo campaign. It carries a cash prize of 800,000 pounds plus a brand new Peugeot 407 car’ – thus lured yet another mail.
These offers were quite tempting, I must admit. But, only they are far too good and too many to believe them to be true. These mails flood the mail box on the Internet these days and on any day, I receive about half-a-dozen such alluring mails. This must be the case also with the others with e-mail accounts.
The advent of Internet has undoubtedly brought us many good things making the life easy and comfortable. The Internet is like oxygen, so to say. Just as we cannot live without breathing, we cannot survive without the internet, these days, as we are heavily dependent on it in our daily lives. With the inter-net coming handy, we can access the world at large at the click of the mouse and do wonders with it.
However, as is the case with any technology, the internet too carries with it some evils of various kinds – one of them being the on-line frauds. Nevertheless, its good tidings are far more than its bad effects. Even the life-saving drugs are capable of causing some harmful side effects; yet we cannot dispense with these vital medicines. Same is the case with the Net too. Not surprisingly, the internet has its own share of negative aspects. The aim of this article is to dwell on some of the frauds that are being perpetrated through e-mails. These are the mails received from unknown sources informing us of winning of lotteries or award of prizes worth millions of pounds or dollars! Offers of foreigners (read, strangers!) reposing trust in us and seeking to voluntarily transfer millions of foreign funds to our own Bank accounts in India to safeguard their own interests, on sharing or commission (percentage) basis too are aplenty.
The basis for such offers is not far to seek. They play on the psychology – the greed, to be specific – of the people, so that gullible people could offer themselves the soft targets and become easy preys. Some of the categories of on-line frauds we come across are:
• ‘Winning of jackpot of ‘on-line’ lotteries based on e-mail addresses.
• ‘Sharing’ as custodian of a huge ‘unclaimed’ fortune of foreign funds.
• Appeals from foreign ‘widows’ to help them save their huge fortunes running into several millions of pounds or dollars, ‘ left behind’ by their deceased husbands, as a ‘trusty’ on ‘sharing’ basis.
• Transfer of ‘illegal’ funds by some foreign ‘Banks’ for safe-custody on ‘sharing’ basis.
• ‘Award’ of millions of pounds/dollars (plus valuable cars) as ‘promos’ in the names of the world-renowned foreign automobile firms such as BMW, Honda, Peugeot.- as also Nokia, etc., and the software giants like Yahoo/MSN.
• ‘Grants’ (unsolicited, mind you!) in the name of certain Catholic Charity Organizations of U.K.
When the gullible people respond to these ‘enticing’ offers, out of greed or curiosity, they would be taken for a long ride. They would first be asked to furnish all their personal details including their Bank Accounts numbers ‘to facilitate smooth transfer’ of funds or the prize amount.
Then the person would be asked, in the first instance, to remit some amount to cover the expenses such as local taxes, etc., incidental to transfer of the award/prize money. For this purpose, a Bank Account number would be provided. Once this is done, there would follow subsequent advices for further remittances, on one pretext or the other. They would be so convincing and alluring that the person would fall for them and continue to make remittances, till he woke up to the fraud suddenly, one day! By that time, he would have parted with all his savings – irretrievably!
As for transfer of illegal foreign funds for the ‘Trust’, one would be asked to furnish in confidence his Bank Account details. No sooner than these are furnished that the whole amount remaining in one’s personal Bank Account would be siphoned off by withdrawing it using this classified information. By the time the person realized it, he was sure to become a pauper.
Another kind is the suo motu offers of very lucrative high-paid jobs in the Gulf countries and the U.K. in the off-shore oil corporations and on-shore organizations such as grand Royal Hotels. Sky is the limit for the perks offered for these jobs. Once you allow yourself to be lured by these jobs, you would be asked to pay – initially – a certain amount to cover the visa and other contingent charges for processing your entry into the country. This is only a beginning and you would be leached out till the last copper unless you become wiser before it is too late.
Yet another type of on-line fraud is the mails received in the names of popular Banks of the country. The mail would ask the customers of the Bank to log into their accounts and verify the details to update them. An e-mail site would be provided for the purpose, purported to be that of the Bank. When the unwary Account-holders did this, it would lead to a fake site and their passwords and the operational codes as also the funds available in the Account would be known to the fraudsters – who would then hack into the persons’ Accounts and withdraw the entire amount at credit and vanish into thin air.
One such mail that has been doing rounds, of late, is the one in the name of ‘Punjab National Bank’ which says that the ‘PNB has temporarily suspended’ your Account and that you are needed to complete an update to unlock the Account. The mail would seem so authentic and genuine that it would not be surprising if some customers of the Bank fall a victim to it. Another name that is being used is the ‘City Bank’ (which in fact is at variance from the genuine ‘Citi Bank’).
Unfortunately, several persons had led themselves into these traps, knowingly or unknowingly, and suffered huge losses of their hard-earnings. In this context, it is worth recalling an unfortunate case of a young professional, who fell for one such ruse in the recent past. He had responded to a mail about the ‘pathetic’ situation of a foreign ‘widow’ whose husband had supposedly amassed a huge wealth running into millions of pounds, and died leaving her and a child behind! As her relatives were after this wealth, she feared for her and her child’s lives. She wanted someone trustworthy person – outside her own country – who could take care of the huge fortune as well as the welfare of the child. She proposed to create a Trust with the money to be transferred secretly. The person would be required to be the Trustee of it, for which half of the fortune would be bequeathed to him! She had ‘somehow’ come to know of this young man to be trustworthy and reliable. And hence, the appeal!
Believing the story to be true, the man made a positive response to her appeal – coaxed by his close friends in whom he had confided. She had requested for monetary help incidental to retrieving the money standing in her husband’s Bank Account. He had obliged her by remitting about a lakh of rupees in foreign exchange. There were further requests, every time adducing convincing reasons, for expenses of various kinds ‘to facilitate smooth and secret transfer of the funds’ to him. He had to borrow the money, for the purpose. His friends too volunteered to partner with him in the deal and paid their share of money. At some stage, he smelt a rat and started raising questions. Then the ‘widow’ fell silent and stopped responding to his mails. By the time he realized that he was cheated, he had already paid about 10 lakh rupees. He was now in deep soup, for apart from losing his hard-earned money, his friends who had voluntarily advanced Rs.3 lakhs with a view to reaping the benefits, had now turned hostile and demanded their money back. Ultimately he had to borrow from the private money-lenders at high rates of interest, besides selling off some of his valuables, and pay them off. He could not approach the police for obvious reasons. This should serve as a lesson to others!
There have been several such cases of people falling prey to these on-line frauds, either out of greed or gullibility. The recent case was that of a Realtor in Hyderabad who had reportedly lost over Rs. 50 lakhs to the on-line fraudsters. In this case, he was bold enough to lodge a police complaint, and a couple of foreign nationals – both Nigerians – were caught subsequently in this connection, but the money could not be recovered. Very few cases come to light, as most of the victims do not prefer to report to the police for fear of exposure and ridicule, and suffer silently. The on-line conmen turn out to be mostly the Nigerian nationals residing in India. That is how these are also known to be the ‘Nigerian frauds'. While a few are caught, many escape easily.
The steady rise of such frauds has necessitated creation of separate Cyber Crimes Cells in the police department, to deal exclusively with such crimes. The department, however, is handicapped not
only for want of adequate strength, but also for expertise to handle the high-tech. internet crimes. With the increasing number of such frauds, public awareness too has increased. People themselves should be alert and cautious enough to check them. The best solution lies in ignoring such mails by deleting them even without according a second glance – however genuine they appear to be and however tempting they are! One should refrain from reeling out, under any circumstances, their personal details, esp., anything concerning his Bank Accounts and credit card numbers – for privacy on the Net is a myth. Some Banks, time and again, caution their customers not to reveal their Accounts’ details to anyone – not even to the Bank’s ‘representatives’, as no Bank requires its customers to divulge the information on-line. One should be extra careful and cautious with his pass words, credit-debit card numbers, etc. while transacting on-line as the hackers are on the prowl round the clock.
The on-line fraudsters are more dangerous than the computer viruses, and therefore, one must be wary of them and exercise utmost caution, and not allow the greed to take the better of him - lest he would be regretting his folly the rest of his life!
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 08.11.2010
Alle Rechte vorbehalten
To those innocent victims who fell a prey to the Internatinal conmen