The sunken job market due to Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in aspirants seeking alternative employment opportunities on fake job websites and ‘work from home’ companies that fleece them.
In India, nearly 30 per cent of teenagers active on internet have been victims of ‘social engineering’ scams. The ‘work from home’ (WFH) scam is where people are fooled into paying to start a business, which never happens, or being tricked into completing work for which they are not paid.
Scammers have also used phishing techniques to trap many homemakers and students along with unemployed people looking for part-time jobs. Victims are prompted to pay a processing fee to get ‘large sums of money’ by scammers pretending to be officials from law and enforcement agencies, who actually steal the money by way of social engineering and in the name of ‘errors’ they make during WFH tasks.
Why people fall for online frauds
• Trust: Scammers exploit the trust that is the basis of social engineering
• Ignorance: Lack of knowledge of social engineering attacks makes people and organizations vulnerable
• Greed: Scammers promise rewards in exchange for time spent on simple tasks like typing, filling forms, and social media likings. (Many victims pay hefty advances & security deposits before they get money for proposed tasks)
• Fear: People are afraid of loss, and fraudsters exploit such fears. (They send a message or make a call warning about errors during the ‘data entry’ job assigned to the victim)
• Urgency & Panic: Scammers call in the guise of a lawyer or police officer who requires an urgent transfer of funds because of errors made during WFH jobs (Many pay to avoid ‘legal action’ against them)
• Step 1: They send phishing messages on WhatsApp, SMS, via email and fake websites seeking candidates for DTP jobs
• Step 2: Victims click the link and fill the form or call the number displayed; they do an interview on WhatsApp just like corporate interviews
• Step 3: Victims receive a formal communication of acceptance/selection via email, WhatsApp or SMS
• Step 4: Victims are requested to submit Address, Pan Card or Aadhaar Card
• Step 5: They are then asked to sign online PDF forms with Terms and Conditions, including a ‘penalty clause’ for errors
• Step 6: They will send a Portal ID and Password to submit work
• Step 7: In a majority of cases, they ask for a Security Deposit before work starts, depending on how desperate the victim is
• Step 8: First few days, they do not identify any errors, and if required they will pay minor amounts to impress the victim
• Step 9: They start identifying mistakes; consolidate errors and produce a bill
• Step 10: Harassment, extortion start with hundreds of calls from different numbers in a single day; calls from ‘lawyers’, ‘police’ threatening legal action and then, the victim ends up paying
According to a few victims who communicated with End Now Foundation volunteers, many have paid registration charges up to Rs 1 lakh. Victims have also mentioned non-availability of laptops after which scammers, offering a laptop, ask for an additional Rs 10,000 as insurance for laptops and Rs 5,000 as transportation charges. Subsequently, an ID card and offer letter are sent, but not the laptop. Upon repeated calls, they ask for a cancellation fee of Rs 5,000 after which calls or emails are not acknowledged.
Tips to avoid frauds:
• Beware of short URLs, information requested on Google forms from unknown sources
• Never send sensitive, personal, or proprietary information (Aadhar or Pan card) via email
• Look for poor spelling, grammar in emails, SMS and portals
• Links/Forms asking for personal information
• Always check the header of emails for genuineness
• Never sign any online agreement before consulting a lawyer
• Never pay to get a job; genuine firms never ask for deposits
• Scanning QR Code or OTP, UPIN, Bank Card, and CVV numbers mean you are transferring money from your account and NOT receiving
• Report fraud on www.cybercrime.gov.in immediately
Stay Tuned to Cyber Talk for more on Internet Ethics and Digital Wellness by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation www.endnowfoundation.org
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