A disturbing trend of courier-related cyber scams has emerged, targeting unsuspecting individuals across India. In these scams, fraudsters pose as officials from reputable organisations, such as courier companies or government departments like the narcotics bureau. Using sophisticated social engineering tactics, they deceive victims into divulging personal information and transferring money under false pretences. Recently, a woman IT professional from Mumbai fell victim to such a scam, losing Rs 1.97 lakh.
Instances of courier-related cyber scams
Recently, two significant cases of courier-related cyber scams have surfaced, illustrating the alarming prevalence of such fraudulent activities.
- Case in Delhi: A doctor in Delhi fell victim to an online scam, resulting in a staggering loss of approximately Rs 4.47 crore. The scam involved fraudsters posing as representatives of a courier company. They informed the doctor about a seized package and requested substantial money for verification purposes. Tragically, the doctor trusted the callers and lost substantial money.
- Case in Mumbai: In a strikingly similar incident, an IT professional from Mumbai, Maharashtra, lost Rs 1.97 lakh to cyber fraudsters pretending to be officials from the narcotics department. The fraudsters contacted the victim, claiming her Aadhaar number was linked to the criminals’ bank accounts. They coerced the victim into transferring money for verification through deceptive tactics and false evidence, resulting in a significant financial loss.
These recent cases highlight the growing threat of courier-related cyber scams and the devastating impact they can have on unsuspecting individuals. It emphasises the urgent need for increased awareness, vigilance, and preventive measures to protect oneself from falling victim to such fraudulent schemes.
Nature of the Attack
The cyber scam typically begins with a fraudulent call from someone claiming to be associated with a courier company. They inform the victim that their package is stuck or has been seized, escalating the situation by involving law enforcement agencies, such as the narcotics department. The fraudsters manipulate victims by creating a sense of urgency and fear, convincing them to download communication apps like Skype to establish credibility. Fabricated evidence and false claims trick victims into sharing personal information, including Aadhaar numbers, and coercing them to make financial transactions for verification purposes.
Best Practices to Stay Safe
To protect oneself from courier-related cyber scams and similar frauds, individuals should follow these best practices:
- Verify Calls and Identity: Be cautious when receiving calls from unknown numbers. Verify the caller’s identity by cross-checking with relevant authorities or organisations before sharing personal information.
- Exercise Caution with Personal Information: Avoid sharing sensitive personal information, such as Aadhaar numbers, bank account details, or passwords, over the phone or through messaging apps unless necessary and with trusted sources.
- Beware of Urgency and Threats: Scammers often create a sense of urgency or threaten legal consequences to manipulate victims. Remain vigilant and question any unexpected demands for money or personal information.
- Double-Check Suspicious Claims: If contacted by someone claiming to be from a government department or law enforcement agency, independently verify their credentials by contacting the official helpline or visiting the department’s official website.
- Educate and Spread Awareness: Share information about these scams with friends, family, and colleagues to raise awareness and collectively prevent others from falling victim to such frauds.
In case of falling victim to a courier-related cyber scam, individuals can sort to take the following legal actions:
- File a First Information Report (FIR): In case of falling victim to a courier-related cyber scam or any similar online fraud, individuals have legal options available to seek justice and potentially recover their losses. One of the primary legal actions that can be taken is to file a First Information Report (FIR) with the local police. The following sections of Indian law may be applicable in such cases:
- Section 419 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): This section deals with the offence of cheating by impersonation. It states that whoever cheats by impersonating another person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with a fine, or both.
- Section 420 of the IPC: This section covers the offence of cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. It states that whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
- Section 66(C) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000: This section deals with the offence of identity theft. It states that whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly, makes use of the electronic signature, password, or any other unique identification feature of any other person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
- Section 66(D) of the IT Act, 2000 pertains to the offence of cheating by personation by using a computer resource. It states that whoever, by means of any communication device or computer resource, cheats by personating shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
- National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal- One powerful resource available to victims is the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, equipped with a 24×7 helpline number, 1930. This portal serves as a centralised platform for reporting cybercrimes, including financial fraud.
The rise of courier-related cyber scams demands increased vigilance from individuals to protect themselves against fraud. Heightened awareness, caution, and scepticism when dealing with unknown callers or suspicious requests are crucial. By following best practices, such as verifying identities, avoiding sharing sensitive information, and staying updated on emerging scams, individuals can minimise the risk of falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Furthermore, spreading awareness about such scams and promoting cybersecurity education will play a vital role in creating a safer digital environment for everyone.
Author: Mr. Neeraj Soni, Intern – Policy and Advocacy, CyberPeace Foundation