Fraud Alert: Visa Scam, Bank Mules 'Renting' Accounts to Fraudsters
Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
As the great Charles Chaplin rightly said, greed, indeed, remains the most obvious motivating factor behind most crime. The increasing number of cybercrimes, where people lose money because they fall prey to greed, proves this again and again!
Otherwise, what would explain a situation where not one, or two, but as many as 300 people were duped by fraudsters promising them an 'easy and quick' visa? In this case, greed was for a quick solution rather than money.
Then there is the greed to make easy money—by allowing your bank account to be used by fraudsters for a fee. These are called money mules. Regular readers of this column would have noted how we repeatedly warn people not to share their bank account details, credit or debit card numbers or personal identification numbers (PIN) with anyone, so what would you call a person who voluntarily agrees to act as a mule for fraudsters? 
Greed is the obvious answer. 
Visa Scam 
The Delhi police recently arrested two persons when they busted an international gang of fake visa providers in West Delhi, who had duped around 300 people in just four months. 
According to the police, the gang targeted people seeking jobs in the Middle East. They also had a tie-up with a diagnostic centre to conduct medical tests of the victims to make the scam look genuine, says a report from IANS.
Ghashyam Bansal, deputy commissioner of police (DCP) for west Delhi, told the news agency that the gang lured victims through social media and online advertisements by promising them jobs in the Middle East. "They would take passports of the victims and part payment and send them for medical tests to the diagnostic centre to make the process look genuine." 
"The passports were then sent to Nepal either by hand or through courier to get them stamped. After handing over the stamped visa, the remaining payment was taken. The victims would discover that they have been cheated only at the immigration counter in the airport," the DCP added.
The lesson here is to never ever accept help from anyone to obtain a visa to another country. Always visit the authentic website of the country, its embassy in India or visit the website of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to find out details. Here is one link that shows which countries allow e-visa facilities, visa-free facilities and visa-on-arrival for Indian citizens .
Bank Mule
A mule or courier is someone who personally smuggles contraband across a border for a smuggling organisation (read drug mafias). However, over the past few years, cyber-criminals are increasingly using local bank accounts by offering commissions or a percentage of the loot to the customer. In short, they are turning the bank customer into a banking mule.
The Bangur Nagar (Mumabi) police arrested a 22-year-old man who allegedly opened fake bank accounts for fraudsters to deposit their money, and got commission in return, says a report from mid-day.
Quoting the police, the report says this racket was unearthed when the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) imposed a fine of Rs10.96 lakh on the Malad branch of Equitas Small Finance Bank for allowing unified payment interface (UPI) transactions worth crores of rupees without verifications.
"NPCI penalised the bank after receiving many complaints about UPI transactions in the accounts of two travel agencies—Sky Bright Travels and Life and Travel. The accounts were immediately frozen. The Gumasta licenses of these two accounts, obtained under the Shops and Establishment Act of Maharashtra, were found to be fake. Police arrested Chandrapraksh Vaishnav, who had opened the accounts, and seized two fake Aadhaar cards," the report says.
According to the report, Chandrapraksh Vaishnav, from the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan, has been in the illegal business of opening fake bank accounts for criminals duping innocent citizens' money for the past two years. "He also made arrangements for rented offices and gumasta licenses. He was paid Rs60,000 per account he opened."
This case highlights the dangers for the banking system and raises serious questions about the authentication and verification process followed by financial service-providers while on-boarding new customers. With the fake Aadhaar cards, Chandrapraksh Vaishnav had opened two bank accounts in the name of Rajan Kumar and Amit Balraj from Haryana. 
If Rajan Kumar and Amit Balraj are, indeed, real persons whose Aadhaar has been used for this fraud, then irrespective of whether they knew about the scam or not, they will have to face police action. 
Remember the case of Mumbai-based Ameya Dhapare? His life turned upside-down ever since someone posted a copy of his Aadhaar on the web which was used by fraudsters freely for obtaining SIM cards, opening bank accounts, and even creating seller accounts on e-commerce portals for duping people.  
"My life has become hell. I receive at least two or three authentication-failure emails a day, apart from several anonymous calls and messages, which indicate that people are trying to use my Aadhaar somewhere. Jharkhand, Punjab, Haryana… the list is endless. I also have a toddler at home, and random men turning up at my home every day, sometimes in my absence, is scary," he told Mumbai Mirror in December 2019.
The important point is never to share your personal details with anyone, at least not on a phone call or email. If it is most essential and you must share a photocopy, then attest it with the date and time and mention the purpose for which it is being given.
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). 
1 year ago
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