Fraud Alert: Job Offer-cum-crypto MLM Scam; 12th Pass Cybercriminal Arrested in Multi-crore Fraud
Technology and its innovations are expected to help enhance the quality of life for everyone. However, cybercriminals are often miles ahead of ordinary people when it comes to misusing technology to profit from it. The reason is simple. Cybercriminals leverage technology more than the rest of us because they have specific goals in mind, and the knowledge and skills to achieve them. This means that we, as ordinary users, need to keep ourselves constantly informed about cybersecurity developments and best practices to protect ourselves from being cheated. 
In this article, I will tell you how cybercriminals created a genuine-looking crypto account using technology. Nithin Kamath, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Zerodha, who highlighted the scam on Twitter, says, "The account seemed like a real crypto account, with account balance, ledger, profit and loss (P&L). But it was all fake; everything on it was manipulated, including the Telegram group. The crypto price movements were also manipulated to generate profits and sow greed at the start." In this case, the scam was structured as a multi-level marketing (MLM) operation. 
In another case, a class XII pass, self-taught cybergeek cheated thousands of unsuspecting people, duped them, then converted this money into cryptocurrency and remitted it to Chinese nationals. The Mumbai police have arrested this fraudster, who had been running up a daily turnover of Rs3 crore to Rs5 crore by defrauding people. But more about it later.
Job Offer-cum-crypto MLM Scam
Cybercriminals are good at impersonating a person or an entity, complete with the creation of an authentic-looking web portal. That is why they find it easy to lure people and dupe them. 
 As I mentioned, Mr Kamath tweeted about this scam when someone he knew was cheated and lost Rs5 lakh. It started with the offer for a part-time job on WhatsApp. When the person accepted the offer, he was asked to do simple tasks that paid Rs150 per task. They even paid Rs30,000 after completing these tasks.  
"A Telegram group was created with others who claimed to do these tasks. The next task for the group was to trade on a mock crypto platform, following a bunch of rules. Profits generated were allowed to be withdrawn, even without transferring any real money," Mr Kamath says.
However, these were random crypto tokens whose prices fraudsters could easily manipulate. Next, the group was asked to transfer real money to generate higher returns. "Others in the group claiming to transfer nudged my friend to do so as well. I guess the risk did not seem much since the money transferred was the Rs30,000 earned through the platform." 
"But greed took over, and more money was transferred, probably due to peer pressure from others in the group who claimed to have made large transfers and profits. The person tried to withdraw but could not and was told that a certain number of traders was required. The fear of being unable to withdraw the money took over, and more money was added to the trade. This amounted to Rs5 lakh, a large amount for any person," Mr Kamath says.
What happened next is quite shocking. When the person told the gang that he had no more money to 'invest', they offered him a loan! Finally, the victim confided in his spouse and filed a complaint with the police.
Every time we write about fraud, we tell people not to be greedy or act out of fear created by fraudsters. Unfortunately, people ignore these warnings and 'invest' money in products they do not understand. These people end up losing their hard-earned money to a variety of frauds.
Thousands of people have already lost money in crypto trading, promising huge returns on investment and more money for recruiting new 'investors' (). These are nothing by MLM frauds, where new people keep paying for the previous joinees. 
MLM scams are a fraudulent business model that involves recruiting people to become distributors of products or services. These distributors are incentivised to recruit others into the 'business' and earn commissions based on the sales made by their downline recruits. Such schemes invariably collapse under their own weight and everyone, except the scammers, loses money. 
While fake job rackets are proliferating over social media, what Mr Kamath described is a new modus operandi with elements like fake job offers, MLM and dummy crypto trading.  
Remember, no legitimate entity or company offers a job to any random person (read: you) on social media, especially via WhatsApp. Recruitment is a long and serious process where the hiring entity—if it is a genuine organisation—invites applications through their official portal or authorised agency and, only after scrutinising and verifying the job seeker's application, documents and perhaps a personal or online interview, is the job offered. 
So, the next time you receive such a job offer on WhatsApp, report and block the number from where you got the message. It will save you and other people too from becoming victims. 
12th Pass Cybercriminal Arrested in Multi-crore Fraud
Shrinivas Rao Dadi, a class XII pass, self-taught cybergeek has been arrested from Vishakhapatnam by the Mumbai police in a multi-crore cyberfraud spanning the length and breadth of the country, says a report from Times of India (ToI).
Investigators told the newspaper that Mr Dadi had been converting money that was defrauded from Indian citizens into cryptocurrency and transferring it to Chinese nationals. "He was generating a turnover of anywhere between Rs3 crore to Rs5 crore daily out of deceiving citizens."
Explaining the modus operandi, investigators told ToI that there was an hierarchy in how the scamsters operated. "Some of them were tasked with calling up unsuspecting citizens, largely women, over Skype or WhatsApp, posing as policemen. They would scare the victim by claiming that a parcel that he or she had sent by courier was found to be containing drugs. They also flashed fake police IDs to deceive the victim."
"The victims were conned into downloading apps that provided the scamster with remote access to their phone screen," Ajay Bansal, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), told the newspaper. "The victims were then coerced into entering their bank account details on the phone. Once the victim keyed in the details, the fraudster viewed them through the app and emptied their account."
Citizens from Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Kolkata, among other places, were duped by the gang. After an investigation that lasted for nearly a month and a half, the police traced the bank accounts where the money was received by the criminals. These bank accounts were operated by some agents. The police arrested two agents, Mahendra Rokde and Mukesh Dive from Titwala and two others, Sanjay Mandal and Animesh Vaid from Kolkata.
"The agents would communicate with Mr Dadi, who was their handler, over the Telegram app. Mr Dadi was converting the ill-gotten money into cryptocurrency and transferring it to Chinese nationals," the police told the newspaper.
The police have frozen nearly Rs1.5 crore from 40 bank accounts linked with Mr Dadi and his agents. "Mr Dadi was a former security officer by profession. He has been involved in cybercrime for three to four years but was never under the police radar," DCP Bansal says.
Last month, I wrote about a dangerous new scam where the victim was subjected to a whole enactment starting with a fake video call backed by a phoney cybercrime officer in a fake police station, then a series of fake interrogations with more fake police people, and four hours of threats and harassment. Chillingly, this can happen to anyone, and you may become a victim too.
Remember, cybercriminals are often skilled at using technology and have in-depth knowledge of its vulnerabilities and weaknesses. On the other hand, ordinary people usually do not have the same level of technical knowledge and lack awareness of the latest threats and risks associated with technology. People are also negligent about precautions, such as regularly updating their software, and mobile apps, using strong passwords, and not sharing personal details with anyone, especially an unknown entity. This leaves them vulnerable to cyberfrauds.
As I mentioned earlier, the police will never use social media or chat apps to make a video call with you. They will also never ask you to download any app over the call. So, the moment you receive any call from the 'police' on a chat app, immediately disconnect it and report the number to the chap app, for example, WhatsApp.
How To Report Cyber Fraud?
Do report cybercrimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c). 
If the fraud is related to your bank account, you need to immediately send an email to the official email ID of your branch (you can find it on the bank's website or your passbook) with a copy to the bank's customer care. Even if you have called the official number for customer care, you must still send an email describing your conversation with the bank executive, along with the time, date, and duration of the call. This will be helpful if you face a liability issue with the bank. 
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