"Do not trust online users unless you know them in real life. Also do not share personal information such as address, phone number, date of birth etc. on social media. Cyber fraudsters may misuse your trust and personal information."
Unfortunately, both greed and fear tend to defeat good sense and drive people to make decisions where they lose money and their peace of mind by falling prey to cyber-crime.
Consider this: a man from Maharashtra fell for the promise of a high return on investment promised by a woman from Malaysia and 'invested' a few lakh rupees on her say-so, only to lose all his money. In another scam, a man from Baramulla lost over Rs36 lakh by falling for a scheme involving the supply of kandu nuts, palm seeds and sea nuts to a renowned pharmaceuticals company.
Not much is known about these nuts, but I found a reference where Joan Aiken, author of the book Limbo Lodge, says that kandu nuts, when chewed, lower the chance of dying from snakebite. Clearly, the man who invested Rs36 lakh in a scheme to supply these nuts couldn't have done much homework either.
Uday Mali, who owns a bakery in Kolhapur (Maharashtra), received a WhatsApp message from someone called Rika Lim from Malaysia. She told him that she worked for an international marketing company that deals in diamonds, plastic-related shares and real estate. "If you invest in our company, then you can earn good returns on your investment," she said.
Initially, Mr Mali invested Rs50,000 in the scheme, which showed good returns—as is the case with any classic Ponzi scheme. Lured by the huge return, he deposited nearly Rs20 lakh in various bank accounts shared by Rika. He claims that his investment almost doubled to Rs40 lakh in a very short time.
A report in Loksatta
explains how things started going downhill when Mr Mali needed to withdraw some money. The first time he wanted to make a withdrawal, Rika convinced him not to do so, saying that the company was about to declare a good bonus on the investment. Mr Mali agreed.
By 30th May, he was in dire need of funds and, when he attempted to check his investment on the website, he discovered the portal had become defunct and Rika was also unreachable. Finally, realising that he had been taken for a royal ride, he filed a complaint with the Rajarampuri police station in Kolhapur.
Mr Malii would be lucky if the police recover even a part of the money invested by him. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the greed and lack of due diligence while investing one’s money, that too on the 'advice' of a stranger.
Kandu Nuts, Palm Seeds, Sea Nuts Supply Scam
Extracting money from people under the guise of getting raw materials for herbal medicines, concoctions and magic remedies is not new. This fraud keeps surfacing under new names and newer herbs and raw materials.
A resident of Baramulla in Jammu & Kashmir was lured by a Facebook post about starting a new business of kandu nuts, palm seeds and sea nuts. A lady named T Jessica, claimed to be a purchase manager at a renowned pharmaceuticals company Abbott, was offering a huge commission for the supply of kandu nuts.
Jessica forwarded him the contact details of a seller of kandu nuts named Jyoti T Kandu. "A business conversation started between the complainant and the fraudster Jyoti for selling or buying the said kandu nuts. The complainant was assured by the fraudster that the said nuts are valued very high in the pharmaceutical market owing to their medicinal benefits," police told IANS.
The victim transferred Rs36.35 lakh into different bank accounts shared by Jyoti for buying 50 packets of kandu nuts.
Meanwhile, he received a (fake) call from Mumbai customs, asking him to deposit more money to clear the consignment. When he tried calling back on the number, there was no response.
This created doubt in his mind and, after feeling cheated or duped by Jessica and Jyoti in the name of kandu nuts, he approached the cyber police station at Srinagar and lodged a complaint.
Police traced the bank accounts that had been used for siphoning money. After a detailed analysis, police arrested two Nigerian nationals, Isioma Steven and Collins, from New Delhi.
MTNL KYC Fraud
Fraudsters keep sending bulk messages to many to update their know-your-customer (KYC). You, however, need to be extra cautious before sharing KYC details with any unknown person, irrespective of the claims he/she makes.
The KYC fraud poked its head again when Margaret Alva, the vice-presential candidate from Congress, tweeted one such message with the Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd (MTNL) logo. The message reads, "Dear Customer, Your MTNL Sim KYC has been suspended. Your sim card will be blocked within 24 hours. Call Immediately (Customer Care: xxxxx)."
The message also has a name and number of a person for customer care.
While the issue raised by Ms Alva was about the diversion of calls and her inability to make and receive calls from her mobile, the message she posted has been doing the rounds for the past several months.
In a warning, the Delhi police say, "There is a sharp spike in fraudulent incidents wherein MTNL's name and logo are being used to commit cyber fraud. Mobile customers receive WhatsApp messages from miscreants on the pretext of KYC updation to retrieve confidential information."
As we have repeatedly pointed out, no service-provider or financial services-provider, including banks, threatens customers for want of KYC. They need to follow necessary regulations, including sending intimation to customers to update KYC within the stipulated time (mostly 30 days) followed by a reminder, if there is no response in 30 days. Only then can the service-provider take any coercive action regarding a customer's account.
Needless to say, if you receive such a message for KYC updation, do not call on the number given there. Instead, call on the authentic number provided by your service-provider or bank (your passbook in case of a bank) on their websites.
Stay alert, and don't lose money to greed or fear!