What forms could an online scam take?
Online scams are essentially tricks played upon internet users by fraudulent people with the aim of making innocent internet users hand over their hard earned money to them. Scammers try to lure people to pay money to them and after collecting a good amount of money, they usually disappear. Online scams could take several forms such as lottery scams and money transfer scams. We describe these typical online scam below.
How do scammers typically get in touch with ordinary internet users?
Online scammers would typically try to get in touch with you through emails or other forms of online communication.
For instance, the ‘money transfer scam’ usually originates through emails, whereby the scammers may promise a great amount of money as commission, just for receiving some money in your bank account and transferring it on further. Then they may ask you to transfer some amount of money in advance to cover administration expenses, fees etc. If one falls into such a trap and transfers money, in all likelihood, you will never hear from such a scamster again. In any event, even if someone transfers money to your account and then asks you to keep the commission and transfer the rest, you must report this to the police immediately, as in all likelihood, the source of such money is likely to be illegitimate, i.e., scamsters may also get hold of internet banking details of strangers online, and steal such money to transfer into your account.
In lottery scams, they may send you an email stating that you have won a lottery and then demand your identity proof and credit card details. It is vital to remember that no matter how large the prize such people are claiming to offer you, if you do pass on your details, they may wipe your account clean, i.e., they may try to transfer all your money out of your account, or rack up many bills on your credit card.
How is a typical fraud carried out?
- First of all, scammers send lucrative offers (such as offers of high commission, or news of winning a lottery) to ordinary internet users like us through letters, e-mails, telephone calls, sms, etc.
- Then, to make us believe the authenticity of their offers, they send letters on official looking letterheads or set up websites resembling those of public authorities (for instance, scammers may set up a website which looks similar to that of Reserve Bank of India (RBI)). These offers may also appear to be signed by top executives of such authorities; however, these signatures are faked.
- They may ask you to deposit a small amount of money in an account in the name of processing fees or transaction fees, etc. They have multiple accounts in different banks for such activities and sometimes, even make innocent people disclose their account details by promising high rates of commission.
- Once they collect money from a few people, they suddenly disappear, leaving the victims with no remedy available. This is made even easier in online scams since it is possible to create false identities very easily.
A Recent Example
As a recent example, a complaint has been registered by Mr. Ashish Kumar that he received an email saying that an amount of £750,000.00 had been deposited for him with the Reserve Bank of India by a “Dr.Collins” from “British Petroleum Oil Company”. The email then asked for his bank account details to carry out the transfer of these funds.
When Mr. Kumar registered a complaint regarding this email, it was found out that the email was generated from www.rbi-online.org.in/open_account_4.php which is a phishing site similar to that of RBI. The official RBI website is www.rbi.org.in .
5 tips on recognizing such scams
One must always be wary of internet communications from strangers, especially when offering large amounts of money for no apparent reason. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Be wary of any communication/website which promises you lots of money in a fast and easy way.
- In such communications, watch out for any spelling/grammatical errors and unnecessary focus on the reward money. Such errors or undue focus on rewards should alert you to the possibility of such communications being fraudulent.
- Closely scrutinize the email-id from which the email was sent. Most genuine authorities never use free mailing websites (such as Hotmail, Gmail, etc.)
- Never give the details of your identity and credit cards online. Remember, your bank will almost never ask for your details online.
- It is good policy to delete all such scam emails immediately.
In addition, the Reserve Bank of India has also issued certain guidelines on financial scams:
- The RBI has asked the public to immediately register a complaint in the local police office or with the cyber-crime authorities the moment they receive such fraudulent offers.
- The RBI has also cautioned the public that any kind of participation in such “money transfer” scams is illegal and any person found involved in such activities can be held liable for contravention of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.
- The RBI has also clarified that it does not undertake any type of money arrangement and is not responsible for recovering money paid in response to such bogus offers.
- For further inquiry, you may call the Foreign Exchange Department (022-22610589/22610618).
The bottom line is, don’t lose your mind after seeing a lucrative offer – if it seems too good to be true, it most probably is.
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