If you have ever received an email congratulating you on winning a million dollars and thought it was too good to be true, it was.
Emails like that, and numerous other SMS, Facebook, Whatsapp and BMM frauds are ways in which cyber criminals are ensnaring an increasing number of citizens, as recent figures with the Mumbai police show.
Between January 1 and March 17 this year, the cyber wing registered 32 cases of cybercrime. In the same period last year, only five such cases were recorded. While the police did not make any arrests in those five crimes, this year, they have already arrested 13 people. The complaints include credit and debit card frauds, hacking, obscene emails and SMSes, among other offences.
"We received about 2,697 complaints of cybercrime in 2012. In 2011, the number was 2,201. There has definitely been an increase in the number of complaints and hence, we are trying to create more awareness about cyber safety," said Mukund Pawar, inspector, the cyber cell of the Mumbai police, located at the commissioner's office in south Mumbai.
The substantial increase in money-related offences has been instrumental in pushing up the number of cybercrimes reported, officials said.
"Most of the applications we have received this year have been about money-related offences. In the first quarter of 2013, most complaints have been about credit and debit card frauds," said Pawar. ""Other popular kinds of cybercrime are uploading obscene content on social networking websites, sending vulgar emails or SMSes and hacking. In such cases, the offenders are usually known to the victims and the crime is generally an act of vengeance."
Blame it on the advancement of technology or the adaptive wiles of offenders, organised cybercriminals have now acquired machines that help them clone data from the magnetic stripes of credit cards, manufacture phony cards, and overcome such protective features as holograms. Experts say most credit card frauds today don't involve the usual theft-misuse ploy, but are more sophisticated - done using silicon-based magnetic strip readers called skimming machines.
Vijay Mukhi, a cyber expert, said that since cyber criminals are well-versed with current technology, it is time we upgraded to make life difficult for them. "The magnetic strip on credit cards is old technology. These stripes need to be replaced with chips so offenders cannot clone the information contained in them," he said. "Besides, people have to be more vigilant when using their cards online or over the counter."
Mukhi emphasised the need for a global legislative approach to these crimes as cybercrimes are global.
"For example, we do not know who morphed [actor] Mona Singh's video. We need to change how we investigate social media crimes," he said. "The police will approach YouTube where the video was uploaded and they'll say somebody in the USA did it. The Mumbai police cannot reach out to the culprit because of jurisdictional issues. American law will protect the identity of the person."