Ratan Mani Lal
Lucknow has been famously known as a city of mild manners. While there has been rise in uncivilised behaviour over the years as the city population burgeons, a new trend in crime records indicates a steady rise in cases of fraud and cybercrime. Almost every day, newspaper pages report cases where not only the gullible people, but educated, employed men and women are falling prey to fraudsters, losing their money.
It is said that crime has a strange way of being one step ahead of law-enforcement. Even as the police and other agencies are getting equipped with human resources, technology and other tools, the fraudsters are changing techniques with changing times.
At the same time, cases involving gullible men and women falling prey to fraudsters, almost getting hypnotised, made unconscious with the help of a handkerchief dipped in some chemical, or conned into parting ways with their jewellery or cash and valuable on some flimsy pretext, are on the rise. In almost every locality of Lucknow – from Hazratganj to Daliganj, Aashiana to Gomtinagar, Chowk to Alambagh – men and women are accosted by strangers on the pretext of helping them out, seeking some information or address, and robbed of their valuables.
The rise in use of online facilities by the people of Lucknow is having a most predictable fall-out: a surge in cybercrime cases. Online scams are on a rise and that is one thing we should be wary of while surfing the internet. The scammers are always on a lookout for vulnerable people who can fall for the scams easily. Sending fraudulent links via WhatsApp is the most popular method used by hackers to dupe people.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the motive behind the maximum number of cases of cybercrime in UP – 4,073 out of 8,829 – was fraud, mainly for financial gains, as per the NCRB report- 2021. Online job rackets, identity fraud (where personal information is stolen and used), theft of financial or card payment data, theft and sale of corporate data, cyber extortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack) fall under the category of cybercrime frauds.
The most common cases being reported in Lucknow are:
- Promising jobs in government departments and prominent private companies
- Giving jobs or admission in foreign countries
- Using fake banking instruments such as drafts and cheques
- Offering real estate at cheap rates with help of fake documents, maps
- Duping by offering to help prevent snatching of ornaments
- ATM fraud
- Fake services offered through social media platforms
- Luring through honeytrap for blackmail
- Fake websites offering delivery of food, consumer goods, household items
- Asking for account details through fake messages
Among the striking examples is that of a family which fell prey to an online scam and lost Rs 16 lakh. The family was duped using a SIM card which the fraudsters procured from the victim and then the accused also got hold of the Aadhar card and debit card of the victim.
A massive Rs 215 crore Input Tax Credit fraud was detected in which fake invoices and E-way bills were generated in the name of bogus companies formed by the culprit for this specific purpose.
Many people continue to receive messages through SMS or on WhatsApp about paying their dues for electricity supply, failing which, they are told their electricity will be disconnected the same night. People are told to call a number given in the message or an app to be downloaded to request to make things right. As soon as people call the number,they get lured into providing more details.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has strengthened and equipped the Cybercrime division at the state police headquarters. Among the new recruitments made to the UP Police force, are a large number of those having technology degree or similar qualifications, and they are being trained to deal with the rising trend of cybercrime.
For complaint of online financial fraud, people can call on Cybercrime Helpline No 1930 within 24 hours of the crime being detected. The e-mail address of SP Cyber Crime at Lucknow is: email@example.com
What to do
Experts and police officers say that people must take care not to get into unsolicited conversation with strangers while walking on roads. They should be careful about their cash, watches, mobilephones or jewellery.
They should not believe anyone who says they are trying to help them from being robbed. They should also try to maintain distance from people who try to come close while talking to them.
If they find anyone behaving in a suspicious manner, they should shout or try to attract other people’s attention.
Safety tips for secure ATM transactions
Memorise your PIN
Never write it down or share it with anyone
Cover the keypad while entering your ATM PIN
Never seek help from strangers
Avoid taking help from an unknown person for using the ATM card or handling cash
Check for ATM skimming device
Inspect the card slot and keypad for any skimmer attachment
Be aware of your surroundings
Never use an ATM if you feel the surrounding is unsafe or notice any suspicious activity
Remember to collect your ATM card after transaction and leave only after the welcome screen reappears
Do not voice out the Debit Card PIN to the merchant while performing the transaction.
Banks will never ask for your personal details.
Never click any link or app which is not from a trusted source.
Never follow offers of big money, big prizes or a surprise gift.
Never reveal their bank account details to anyone on phone.
Only being extra careful can be helpful, because cybercrimes or other frauds take advantage of people’s misplaced trust or how easily they can be convinced about something which appears fantastic. “In these times of rapid technological advancements, one has to be very cautious,” says S. Ravi, a cyber security expert.
Incidentally, there appears to be a global link to this surge. According to a report in The Daily Yahoo, the US law enforcement agencies are struggling to catch up with a surge of fraud after the pandemic. Since the US Federal government has sent out $5 trillion in assistance during the pandemic, billions of dollars have been stolen by thousands of people. The unemployment benefit sent out by the government appears to have been siphoned off by fraudsters through various means, such as non-existent entities, fake names and addresses and much more. The report says more than 500 people are working on pandemic-fraud cases across the offices of 21 inspectors general, plus investigators from the FBI, the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the IRS.
The US Federal government has already charged 1,500 people with defrauding pandemic-aid programs, and more than 450 people have been convicted so far. But those figures are dwarfed by the mountain of tips and leads that investigators still have to chase.