As technology advances, so do the fraudulent schemes; and scamsters are the first to find loopholes in most of these. Indians are well aware of calls and messages that try and scam them of their hard-earned money. Most banks, including the RBI, have put out ads asking people not to click on links in suspicious emails and messages. They also share awareness messages requesting customers not to share OTPs or personal information, especially bank details, etc.
However, scamsters find ways to work around such things. Interestingly, they realize that senior citizens are perhaps the most vulnerable for such things. The discomfort with technology, the reluctance to ask people when in doubt or ask for help for fear of being ridiculed, etc., make them likely victims.
A large-scale scamming racket was found running from a small city in Jharkhand called Jamtara, nicknamed the phishing capital of India. Many cybercrimes from across the country were traced back here. Many inhabitants of this town had bought luxury SUVs and built bungalows from unexplained income. It even inspired a TV series based on these incidents called, Jamtara- Sabka Number Ayega on Netflix.
Some common scams
Some common scams which people are aware of:
Banking/Phishing: Responding to messages or calls from banks/people claiming to be bank officials. If you get calls asking for OTPs, or to click links in texts or emails to update your information, or they request any personal information, you should refuse. You can always visit the bank or call an authorized centre to clarify if required. Most often, these links take you to pages where they collect personal information or install some unwanted software on your device.
Anti-virus/tech-support: In this scam, you will be shown messages saying your system is infected and needs to be immediately cleaned by downloading some software. When you click on the given link, they gain access to your system and then proceed to collect information and then access your bank and other accounts.
Another variation is calling up saying they are representatives of reputed computer companies like Apple or Microsoft, offering to check your computer to fix issues. Especially if you get offers of free checks you should refuse. Have your authorized centre numbers handy and contact them for checks and repairs. You should avoid taking your devices to any third-party vendors unless you are very sure about their authenticity. People can easily collect details from your hard drives and even browser caches.
Apart from these, the lottery scam or you’ve won a jackpot type of messages are the most common scams to avoid.
Some uncommon scams are:
Romance: Over here, they target lonely seniors who are vulnerable and gain their confidence. In the guise of helping them with online payments or shopping, they collect all information and then one day disappear after diverting all funds to wherever they want. One way to avoid this is to stay clear of unknown people online and offline. Some people are not who they claim to be, especially online. If you make unknown friends, make sure that people around you are aware of them, and can check them out.
Pension: About a year back, Indian Railways informed people about a possible scam about the digital life certificate. Scamsters managed to collect details of pensioners and called them up saying their digital life certificate is getting updated and requested them to share OTPs. Once they got the OTP, the pension funds would get transferred to some unknown account. Hence, OTPs should never be shared with anyone at any cost.
UPI ID: Some scamsters access your UPI ID using which they do transactions in your name. Hence, never share this information with anyone. The same goes for credit card or debit card numbers as well.
Coupon: Often, you may find forwards of some discount or coupons of reputed brands. This is most often a scam. Once you click on the link to try and avail the benefit, they collect information to scam you.
Shopping: Fake shopping websites made to look attractive by offering awesome discounts are another way of scamming. You purchase items from this fake site; they get your money, but you never get the product. The COD or cash on delivery is another lesser-known scam in India. Since most people order many things online and cannot keep track, these people deliver things and ask for COD. The package will contain some worthless things. At times, they say someone booked on your behalf, and you pay and accept the package.
If you use online travel services, ensure that you only book through reputed sites. Many fake travel sites exist that take your bookings and money.
Some tips to avoid scams
- Never share personal or bank, card or UPI details, OTPs, and passwords with anyone.
- Never click on any suspicious links in emails, texts, or WA messages.
- Never accept unknown social media connections. Even if their profiles seem known, cross-check personally before accepting as profiles can be faked to look like someone you know.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fis.
- Keep strong and safe passwords that are not easy to guess or hack.
- Shop online only from reputed sites and never accept COD packages unless you are sure about the origin.