Cyber crime on the rise in Chandigarh
Cloning, swapping ATM cards, phishing attacks, visa frauds: cyber criminals are becoming more audacious, while unwary Chandigarh residents swallow the bait
Chandigarh Central Forensic Science Laboratory scientist P Siddambary was taken aback when his phone buzzed with a message informing him that his power connection will be disconnected by the evening due to non-payment of dues. The official sounding message, while disconcerting, also came with the bait of a helpline number.
Convinced that there had been some mix up at the power department, Siddambary called the helpline, but no one responded. Little did he know that the ball had been set rolling for a phishing attempt, which would end with him losing ₹85,000.
A helpful ‘power department’ employee returned Siddambary’s call and after hearing his grievance told him that it might be a simple matter of his bill payments not being updated and told him to install the ‘QUICT app’ on his mobile phone through a link sent on his phone to update the bill. However, as soon as he downloaded the application ₹85,000 was siphoned from his account.
Sarabjit Singh of Sector 38 (west) also lost ₹81,590 to fraudsters posing as power department officials. An FIR in both cases was registered on Wednesday.
These are just two of the 226 complaints lodged with the cyber police station by victims who have lost money to fraudsters posing as bank, telecom or power department officials or even brand representatives this year.
Cyber-crime officials say applications such as AnyDesk, Quick Support, and QUICT provide remote access to laptops and mobiles, which enables scammers to access their targets’ private data and siphon money from accounts. “After targets install these apps, fraudsters ask them to make a transaction for a meagre amount, and as soon as one does it, the scammers get all the information needed to withdraw money from people’s bank accounts,” a police official, requesting anonymity, said.
So, what should one do if one were to receive such a call? “If anybody asks you to provide remote access to your account or login details for your bank account or passwords, they are most likely fraudsters. Even if they say they need to be paid for solving an issue, one must not fall in the trap. One should immediately hang up and end the remote session by turning off one’s device,” he advised.
Call ‘customer care’ with care
Fraudsters also alter customer care numbers online to win their targets’ trust and defraud them. A Sector 20 resident lost ₹ 70,000 after she looked up the customer care number of a money app to report a duplicate deduction.
The ‘customer care executive’ asked her to share an OTP (one time password) sent to her phone and ₹ 70,000 was suddenly deducted from her account, The money was used to purchase Amazon gift vouchers. The gift vouchers were redeemed at Malabar Gold. Two residents were arrested from Patiala in the case.
The complainant is among the 93 people who have been cheated in this manner so far this year.
Word of caution for friend indeed
Many people have been duped by people posing as prominent personalities – government department heads, police officers, judges and doctors – ostensibly seeking monetary favours using gift vouchers, Unified Payment Interface (UPI) applications, or cryptocurrency.
In some cases, the fraudsters had used photographs of Chandigarh director general of police (DGP) Praveer Ranjan, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER) director Dr Vivek Lal, a Punjab and Haryana high court judge, principal secretary to the Punjab governor, head of a department at Panjab University, a senior doctor at GMCH-32 and a professor at a private university in Mohali, as their profile images, while seeking monetary favours.
In a case registered in May this year, the complainant, superintendent of police (SP) Jasdev Singh Sidhu, 54, was duped of ₹1 lakh by a man posing as Balamurugan JM, principal secretary to the Punjab governor. Sidhu, who is posted in the security unit of the Punjab Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh, received a WhatsApp message asking him for 10 Amazon e-vouchers worth ₹10,000 each, citing an emergency. Sidhu obliged and shared the 10 e-vouchers, only to realise he had been defrauded.
A police official said that in most cases the fraudsters convince the victim not to call, but to continue to correspond through messages so that their con goes undetected. “These gift vouchers can be redeemed in any part of the country and are hard to trace,” said the official, advising people to always call the person concerned on their usual phone number before lending money.
The cyber police station has received 317 complaints from residents who have been duped in this manner this year.
Rising cyber crime
This year, the cyber-crime police station has already received 4,996 complaints, of which 111 cases have been registered and 112 persons have been arrested.
In 2021, 5,922 complaints were lodged with the cyber-crime investigation cell, of which 68 cases were registered and 36 persons were arrested.
In 2020, as many as 5,429 complaints were received, of which 80 cases were registered and 26 persons were arrested.
Superintendent of police (cybercrime) Ketan Bansal said a sperate police station dedicated to cybercrime has helped speed up investigations. On the challenges faced, he says, “While getting details of the money trail from banks is time consuming, getting details from foreign servers is a major challenge.”