Cyber criminals' modus operandi

Have you been picked up by a leading e-commerce platform like Amazon among a few selected customers and found to be eligible for one assured gift? The range of gifts including laptops, television sets, iPhones, ACs, refrigerators etc., is assured after purchasing any product valuing Rs.4,999.

If yes, then you are being trapped by cyber fraudsters who have intensified conning activities to steal hard earned money of gullible consumers during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Notably, cyber security experts have already warned about the surge in cyber security attacks and breaches in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Such incidents have already jumped by as much as 500% since the coronavirus-induced lockdown was first announced in March. A marked increase in phishing attacks has been observed wherein selected individuals, who may be of high net worth, are targeted  (spear phishing) as well as the attack is unleashed at a mass scale.
Before describing the modus operandi of the cyber fraud, let me share a communication from the world’s leading e-commerce platform Amazon sent to one of our close family members. Below is the original text of communication, which has not been deliberately edited for mistakes and redundancy.

Dear , Madam

congratulation!!

You have been selected for some special from www.amazon.in

After purchasing any selected product form www.amazon.in you will be eligible to get one assured gift below mentioned.

These prizes are assured only for selected customer with limited period offer. You can grab this one time bumper opportunity by availing a single offer from www.amazon.in

www.amazon.in offers various lifestyle products on our sales in huge discount price.

If you will purchase any product Rs:- 4,999 company will provide you a one assured gift totally free of cost. If you have any complaint write us: complaint@amazon.in you can also call on your customer care number +918902674181(working hours) available. You will get a best solution within 24 hours your problem will be resolved. http://amazon.in/

We will feel happy to help you.

ASSURED GIFTS:-

1- DELL INSPIRON CORE I7 6 GEN- 15.6 INCH (LAPTOP)

2- SONY BRAVIA FULL HD LED TV 43″

3- APPLE I PHONE XR (128 GB)

4- VOLTAC AC 2 TON 3 STAR

5- LG REFRIGERATOR DOUBLE DOOR 420L 4 STAR

You need to Do the payment through online Transaction Because cash on delivery not Available in this offer.

You can do your Payments below mention mode of payments.

MODE OF PAYMENTS:-

1- AMAZON PAY

2- GOOGLE PAY/PHONEPE/BHIM UPI

3- PAYTM

4- MOBILE BANKING

Thanks Regard’s,

TEAM AMAZON.IN

After responding to this communication, the family member was made to transfer more than Rs.48,000 to the given unknown bank account numbers in small installments on one pretext or the other as a prerequisite to receive the gift (SONY BRAVIA FULL HD LED TV 43″). However, a call asking her to transfer additional amount of Rs.7,000 to finalise the ‘gift deal’ sounded alarm bells and she started verifying about authenticity of the deal. While trying to find out the status of earlier amount transferred to the bank accounts intimated by the fraudster, it was surprising to find the phone numbers which the fraudster used to get the transactions executed, were now non-existent. The family is in a state of shock as they are clueless as how to reclaim their amount.

Why cyber frauds are witnessing surge in coronavirus pandemic situation?

In this apocalyptic scenario, when everybody was locked inside their homes but working, chatting, watching movies online, and performing our duties, too, the scope for criminals to exploit vulnerabilities and commit online financial crime increased. Work-from-home arrangements with remote access to corporate networks have significantly expanded the attack surface for cyber criminals. Notably, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has highlighted a marked increase of cyber threats connected with malicious domains, malware and ransomware. According to ICANN, the global internet registry there has been a barrage of new domain registrations in the last three months. An analysis shows that 6.5% of domains are related to malicious activities and are ‘fake domains’—a fraudulent website that looks similar or identical to the legitimate one.

What should be done to escape from the fraudster’s email or texts?

It’s most important to check the sender. Fraudulent email addresses will look like legitimate ones but often be off by a character or two. Similarly, scam texts usually tend to come from phone numbers with more than 10 digits.

Besides, be careful when you find hyperlinks. Never click on hyperlinks. In most email programs, you can use your mouse cursor to hover over a link and see a preview of the page it will open. If the link looks suspicious, mark the email as spam and delete it. In a text, generally avoid clicking on links from unknown senders — and don’t respond.

How can we come to know about a fake email or text message intended to commit fraud?

While going through such emails, several parts in a single mail get visible. Most of the time, these emails constitute spelling and punctuation mistakes as has been the case in the above quoted text from ‘Amazon team’. Even subject portion of the email would be peculiar. It costs nothing to send an email. Almost 90  per cent of such emails are not targeting you as a person. They are just spamming a few thousand, or may be more email addresses. It is like casting a big fish net into the ocean. Whatever fish gets caught is your booty.

What are the guiding principles of safety against cyber frauds?

One should not circulate his email ID on public platforms, especially social network sites. Don’t respond to emails from people you don’t know. Especially those emails that promise or guarantee you a rosy picture without any accompanying effort.
While conducting an online financial transaction,  always log on to your bank website for doing online transactions by typing the bank’s URL in the browser. Avoid reaching the bank’s website by clicking on a link in the mail or on a website. Once you complete your transaction, log out. Don’t leave the browser open unattended.

What exactly is Amazon gift scam?

Here, fraudsters reach out to Amazon consumers via email, phone or social media and offer deeply discounted deals on not only Amazon gift cards, but gift cards from third-party providers (like banks and credit card providers.) Often, the message comes with a call for urgency, i.e., the fraudster often offers goods at a steep discount with Amazon gift cards. To avoid this scam: Simply ignore the caller or emailer

Precisely, fraudsters claiming to be an Amazon seller, once again approach potential victims offering deeply discounted goods and services. The catch is that to make the purchase, the seller is only accepting Amazon gift cards as payment. When you make payment for the purchase, the goods never arrive, and you can’t reach the seller to ask for your money back.

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