A new scam
There’s a new scam in the virtual world and this time it’s happening through fake job offers on WhatsApp
We really must applaud the criminal mind. No matter what the legal or tech obstacle that’s thrown in their path, the scamster will surely find a way to keep scamming people. The level of the scams is only becoming more and more sophisticated. The attempts of phishing have skyrocketed. Just recently, many users of my enterprise’s email domain recently started receiving emails in my name asking them to do some work for me. Even though these emails were flagged by Google as spam, the usage of my name convinced a few users that it was indeed me. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and they soon realized that it was a phishing attempt. The language of these emails, the clear instructions, and the insistent tone was a tad bit scary when I read them.
This week, to add to the bizarreness of the phishing emails, I also received a call purportedly from a major courier company. It had an IVR (interactive voice response) and everything! What followed was a familiar experience of an automated call telling me that my shipment had been held back and to speak to customer care I should press a number. Given my dependence on the convenience of online shopping, I felt it could be one of the many things that are yet to be delivered. On pressing the number, a man oozing politeness, professionalism, and proper English went on to tell me (he knew my name which I later deduced is easily available thanks to Truecaller) that my shipment from Mumbai to Canada had been held back. I said I had no such outbound shipments, definitely not to Canada and I’m not even based in Mumbai. He further explained that the shipment was held back since I was sending out some illegal documents. He tried to ensure that I felt alarmed at the prospect of doing something unlawful. He urged that I check with the waybill number but of course the courier company’s official website showed no such shipment. To which, he started insisting that I go to Google and enter a certain URL. I wasn’t alarmed earlier but I was definitely alert then. I knew what this was! He was trying to make me click on a dubious URL and scam me. I promptly hung up, reported the number on Truecaller, blocked the number on my phone, and tried unsuccessfully to report the phone to the cyber crime cell. Did you know that only the loss of money can be reported to the cyber cell, not attempts to scam or phone number?
I have written about various kinds of online scams earlier but frankly, no amount of writing is ever enough. With such smooth criminals in our midst, we will need to keep raising awareness on these fraudulent activities. Recently, Zerodha co-founder Nithin Kamath spoke about this friend being scammed via Whatsapp. Lately, there has been a deluge of attempts to defraud people on WhatsApp. First comes a series of missed calls from international numbers and/or WhatsApp messages promising part-time jobs with lucrative pay. All one has to do is ‘like’ some videos, and that gets the ball rolling. An intricate web of lies and methodologies follow on WhatsApp and Telegram, some token money may even be sent to show the genuineness of the work offer, before the hapless participant eventually gets scammed.
News reports suggest that an increase in the number of such calls on WhatsApp could be coming in the aftermath of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s newly introduced rules that necessitate telecom companies to utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) based filters to scan spam calls and messages. These calls are made using virtual numbers that can be easily purchased online. WhatsApp says that it is actively working with the Indian government to make the platform safe. As users, the best way to safeguard oneself is to not answer unknown calls, blocking unknown numbers, and refraining from clicking unknown links and messages.
This situation also makes one think…why is there a spurt in cyber crime? Are these schemes planned out by former techies who have lost their jobs? Or bright young minds who failed to secure one? Do those who are gainfully employed normally seek a quick buck by swindling people? You’d think that only a few usually carry a delinquent bent of mind. Therefore, it’s a matter of serious concern when online scamming becomes a veritable industry. The scammers today are thinking out-of-the-box, their techniques are ingenious, their methods tech-savvy. If only, as a country, we could bring these sharp thinkers and innovators into the mainstream and give them productive employment that leads to nation-building.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal