When a doctor from a leading city-based hospital received a call from his friend, asking if he required financial assistance ‘since he was stuck in Spain’, the doctor seated in a suburban hospital thought it was a simple case of miscommunication. However, when several friends called up offering to help him based on an e-mail he had sent them, he suspected something was amiss.
When he tried signing into his e-mail account, he realised that his password had been changed. Following this, he approached the cyber police. During investigations, the police found that an unidentified accused had hacked into his e-mail account and had sent mails to everyone on his contact list.
“The mail contained a plea to help him financially as he was stuck in Spain and had run out of money. He asked his friends to send him $1,000 to a bank account number he provided to bail him out. He added that he had lost his cell phone and hence could not be contacted over the phone,” said an officer from the cyber police requesting anonymity. Fortunately in this case, the fraud came to light before any monetary losses were incurred.
“Earlier victims would get e-mails from strangers asking them for monetary help. However, over a period of time, cyber criminals have begun hacking personal accounts and sending mails, since the chances of someone helping out a friend are much more than helping a stranger,” said an officer from Cyber Crime police station.
“The technique is called ‘speared phishing’ wherein a cyber criminal sends out personalised emails to a select group of people. Earlier, there would be general emails sent out to lakhs of people but were impersonal in nature,” said cyber expert Vijay Mukhi.
Joint commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy said, “Cyber criminals have refined their modus operandi over a period of time making their identity appear more genuine.”
Pankaj Bafna, a lawyer dealing with cyber crime cases said, “Of late, there have been varied methods employed by cyber criminals. Another prevalent trend is e-mails carrying the signature of law enforcement agencies such as CBI and Interpol.” He added that the e-mails ironically warn people against online fraud while simultaneously asking them to feed in their personal details on the link attached to the mail for safety purposes.
There have also been posts on social networking profiles of victims asking friends to provide provide them with bank details. The criminals have also hacked into networking profiles and made requests to those present on the victims’ contact list.
In addition to this, people who have fed in their details on certain job portals are also targeted. “They receive e-mails promising them high flying jobs. They are asked to pay a ‘nominal fee’ if they are interested. Needless to say, once the criminal pockets the ‘fee’ there is no trace of them,” added an officer from cyber police.