In a bid to create awareness about the cybercrimes and related preventive measures, Decode hosted an event titled 'Fighting Cybercrime: From The Frontlines' on Monday. The event, held at the India International Centre in New Delhi's Lodhi Estate area , saw riveting discussions on the subject with a prolific panel and an interactive audience.
The panel included Muktesh Chander, ex-DGP Goa and cyber security expert, Nirali Bhatia, cyber psychologist and Khemendra Pal Singh, SHO, Cyber police station (central district), Delhi. The event was moderated by Adrija Bose, senior editor at Decode.
From addressing how cops circumvent through the rampant world of cybercrimes, to what citizens should do to protect themselves, here's how the event unfolded.
Tracking cybercriminals: An uphill climb
Speaking at the event, Chander compared tracking a cybercriminal to moving in a maze. He said, "It is easier to investigate a murder case than investigating a mere 1000 rupees scam, because there are so many links involved at multiple levels in a scam. They possess numerous mobile phones and SIM cards, all of which are discarded once the scam is executed, leading to their untraceability."
Muktesh Chander at Decode event
According to him, this is the reason why the fear of law is diminishing for cybercriminals. "Come catch me if you can" is the standard challenge from their end if a cop manages to trace their number, he added.
As highlighted by Chander, in India, it is very easy to procure multiple SIM cards by forgery. "Criminals can get forged Aadhaar cards made by producing fake documents with a different address every time, on the basis of which they are able to buy a new SIM card whenever they want," he said.
Factors at Play: Administrative Apathy, Victim Hesitance
Bhatia, who is one of the very few cyber psychologist in India, delved into psychological aspects like shame and apathy which deter the victim from filing a case. She said, "More often than not, it is the shame associated with a cybercrime incident, that a victim prefers to stay mum about it. It is the harassment induced from a non-financial scam, like leaking morphed explicit photos or impersonation via fake profiles, which contribute significantly to the low count of FIRs in case of cybercrimes."
Nirali Bhatia at Decode event
Apart from this, apathy from the administrative end also plays a part here, as Bhatia says. "Seldom happens that even if one gathers courage to go to the police station and register a complaint, one is dissed for being 'too dumb' to fall for such scams by the officer in-charge. I have come across similar cases, and such incidents lead to more humiliation for the victim."
However, as Bhatia says, when the scam is being executed, it does become difficult to see through it. If we want to curtail these crimes, creating an amicable environment for victims is a prerequisite. She said, “Cybercrime is different from real-life crimes and demands an understanding of both the cyberspace and the criminal mind. Otherwise, there is a gap in treatment.”
Tips to be safe: Vigilance and Awareness
While catering to an audience question, SHO Singh said that a mere 10% of the already limited registered cases manage to recover the defrauded money. He, therefore, stressed on awareness against these cybercrimes.
Narrating a recent case which came to him, he said, "While attempting to schedule an appointment with a doctor on Google, a woman inadvertently shared her contact number somewhere. Shortly thereafter, she received a call claiming her appointment was booked but required a Rs 3 donation to support a charitable cause. Trusting the request, she made the contribution only to realise she had lost a significant amount of money, running into lakhs."
According to Singh, the victim in this case did not cross-check anything and incurred a huge loss. "Thus, a little vigilance on our part has become very important in these times," he added.
Khemendra Pal Singh at Decode event
Some of the awareness tips shared by Singh include-
- QR code scam- It has become a common practice by fraudsters to send fake QR code for payment. One should always prefer sending money to a bank account instead of a QR code.
- Hacking computer- Singh advised using a strong password and enable two factor authentication on personal computer systems. Along with it he proposed using authentic antivirus and shutting down systems after use (instead of keeping them on Sleep mode).
- UPI fraud- To be safe from UPI frauds, he advised verifying the site before use. Before making any payment on online sites, one should see what link is Google fetching. If it is 'http' in place of 'https' then the site is not secured.
- Online job frauds- An unusually high salary and flexible work hours are some of the red flags of a job fraud. "If things are too good to be true, they are usually fraud," he said.
- Custom duty frauds- In such cases, a person receives a call from a fraudster impersonating as a government official saying that a gift or some illegal substance in their name is stuck at custom. The panicked person ends up providing personal details to the so-called officer and gets conned. Singh advised verifying details and then reporting the matter to police for such scams.
- Phone call impersonation- A growing trend involves fraudulent phone calls from individuals claiming to be distressed family members, such as parents or distant relatives, urgently seeking financial assistance. The fraudsters use AI voice cloning technology or deepfake to make these calls as authentic as possible and the gullible victim is duped. Singh advised to always verify such calls, how dire they may sound.
- Loan app fraud- Lastly, there has been a rising trend in scams and the consequent harassment through loan apps. After a few days of receiving loans from these fraudulent apps, the borrower starts receiving harassment calls, threatening to make their private details public. The only safeguard against this is to never indulge in taking loans from any online platform.