For 35-year old Radha Nair (name changed), a government employee in Coimbatore, banking has assumed a whole new meaning in last few weeks.
It all began with an email from an unknown person posing to be a senior officer of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) congratulating her for winning an international lottery prize worth $500,000 (Rs 2.3 crore).
There was a minor matter though. Nair would have to provide her personal bank account details for the money to be remitted and also make a “small” upfront payment for processing and sundry administrative costs. Nair fell for the trap, promptly sent out her bank details and made the payment — only to learn that she had been duped of Rs 6.5 lakh.
“I have promised myself to visit a bank branch to withdraw money by signing a cheque leaf,” Nair told HT on phone.
Nair is not alone. In the last four years, such instances of banking fraud through “phishing” have grown manifold.
‘Phishing’ is a fraud where criminals create e-mails and web sites that closely resemble those of legitimate companies.
Between January 2006 and September 2009, 1,436 cases of fraudulent Internet money transfer cases involving Rs 15 crore have been reported.
The RBI has now roped in the cybercrime cell of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI’s) to help curb the menace. “There has been a significant rise in the number of these mails. It is a cause for concern and needs to be addressed,” H.R Khan, executive director, RBI said.
Typically perpetrated over an e-mail, these offers lure people by promising an astronomical amount either for winning a lottery or for helping to secure a deceased emperor’s wealth.
In some cases, these mails are sent out through almost identical web-addresses of banks such as the Punjab National Bank (see attached file) to establish credibility and extract bank account details.
Wary banks have cautioned customers to avoid such mails.
“We never request for your personal and financial information over e-mail… Beware of fraudulent websites looking similar to PNB’s Internet Banking website,” PNB said in a communication to its customers.