From a Cop’s Diary: 22 Things to Remember to Protect Yourself against Digital Age Scammers
Vol 13 | Issue 51
Deception Prevention Management, a new sub-discipline innovated by me will save innocent gullible public from being defrauded of billions of dollars/ rupees and save lives of victims of trafficking and from other internet based crimes.
These days in addition to Perception Management we need Deception Prevention Management going by the number of organisations and individuals out to con the people of their hard earned lifetime savings.
|Scammers are always devising new ways of duping the less tech savvy members of the public (Photo: iStock.com/ scyther5)|
I am listing below 22 things you need to remember to protect yourself against the modern-day scammers based on my experience as an IPS officer and my stint as DGP, CB-CID, Tamil Nadu police.
1. First and foremost, do not believe any claim or promise of exaggerated ROI (rate of return) on investment. Fraudsters play on the greed factor of the investing public and in the guise of pandering to it, dupe the latter. Hence, we need to control our own appetite for excessive profit.
2. Never attend a mobile phone call without ascertaining the identity of the person or the agency at other end. Most of the masters of deception make calls posing as your bank reps etc. Deceivers are always innovating faster and devising new ways of duping the less tech savvy members of the public. Jamtara in Jharkhand has schools to train fraudsters and every day they do phishing crimes across the country to the tune of crores of rupees. They have our personal data like bank account numbers and cell numbers. They clone sim numbers and take control of bank accounts, siphoning off money in seconds through UPI to credit fake accounts from which they withdraw the funds.
3. In today’s cyber world where everything is virtual and digital, guard your passwords like your life. One should ensure password security by choosing an alphanumeric with special character password. Change your passwords periodically as password hackers use AI and latest technology to hack our accounts. Storage of passwords should also be in a digital locker. Passwords and pins should be entered with no one doing shoulder surfing to copy it later.
4. Never let others know when you are buying or selling property or when you run into some windfall profits, for then it will trigger the vultures to prey on you to take some or all of it from you.
|Store your passwords in a digital locker (Photo: iStock.com/ fizkes)|
5. Most deceivers find technology a great enabler, for it enables immunity through anonymity of a faceless website or blog. Never invest in anything without knowing about the background of the people promoting a particular scheme.
6. Never take anyone on face value on Facebook or online media. The person posing as a woman may be a predatory man or vice versa. Their location may be next door while they would claim to be based in Singapore or New York. They might claim to be entrepreneurs, while the only business they would be doing is deception and cheating.
7. Check the online webprint and reputation of persons and organisations before having any truck with them. A World Bank auditor wept saying he did not check the antecedents of an IIT IIM alumnus’ scheme on Google and as a result lost two crores of his hard earned savings. People check on their ailments on Google before taking the doctor’s advice but rarely check the online reputation of persons and schemes.
8. Always keep your Gpay or UPI linked bank account with whatever you think is the minimal or maximum amount you think you would need every month. Keep another account preferably with another bank with your entire deposits and savings, and make sure you don’t link it with Gpay or UPI
9. Usually the fraudster gets introduced to a victim by a close friend or family member whom he/ she trusts and the latter may knowingly or unwittingly introduce such a con artist. Hence one should be wary even of the advice of our kith and kin and inner circle.
10. Any scheme that offers free products or services is suspect. What is offered as free is a bait to hook the unsuspecting into some nefarious scheme where he / she stands to lose a lot more.
11. We should detect tell tale signs left by fraudsters - watch for office addresses close to central/ government agencies like RBI, lots of factual and spelling errors, etc. Proximity to authorities is sought to be demonstrated to show the legitimacy of operations. Errors creep in due to lack of care as well as knowledge gaps of criminals.
12. Never take telephone numbers from a Google Search. Take the numbers only from a verified company website. Lots of phishers pose as if their number is that of some service provider for maintenance or repair of domestic equipment like refrigerators, etc. They then ask the unsuspecting customer to enter their details in an online form and defraud them.
|Fraudsters are targeting elderly people through sexting (Photo: iStock.com/ triloks)|
13. Never install any "service app" given to you by a "service agent" on the phone. It is probably a keylogger through which every key stroke is collected by the scammer or a tool through which he can access your files. Only follow links to service apps directly from the verified company website. It is always better not to enter any payment related website - Amazon, Bank, Booking.com etc while a service app is in use.
14. Learn in advance how to uninstall an app in a hurry, and block a credit card in an even greater hurry. Keep a set of emergency instructions (how to change passwords etc) pinned to your desk, it might come handy someday for you or for someone you value.
15. Remember there are no free lunches. Whenever you receive a mail or message saying you are to be the beneficiary of a financial bonanza from the widow of a rich man or a banker who has benefitted from a legacy or embezzlement, you can be certain it is a fraud and immediately delete the mail/message and block the sender.
16. Fraudsters use a female voice online to entice potential victims and entice them to respond to sexting and exchanging videos and then resort to blackmail to extort large sums of money to various accounts. Recently, a 65-year-old US professor fell in the trap of sexting with such a gang of fraudsters. Youngsters are also vulnerable to such frauds through what is overtly dating sites
17. Never use an unsecured or publicly accessed wifi connection to transact from your bank account, as lurking criminals can harvest the password and other details to siphon off funds.
18. Handle and swipe your credit or debit cards yourself and do not hand them over to anyone even for a short while for billing or other purpose, as it is enough time to take a copy of the CVV number.
|The author in uniform while in service|
19. Don’t be concerned only about unauthorised debits to your account, but flag unknown credits of small amounts to your account too, as these are meant to verify your identity and the correctness of your bank details available with the phisher at a remote location.
20. Always install an up-to-date antivirus software on your devices. Off and on run a scanner to check if any spyware is sitting on your system.
21. Never pay money for job offers. If there is a precondition to pay a sum of money to an agent or firm to secure a job in the domestic or overseas market, then it is a scam.
22. Check periodically and monitor your bank accounts - personal and organisational - as many frauds are committed with either direct involvement of bank personnel or with their connivance.
Dr Prateep V Philip, a 1987 batch IPS officer, served as Director, CB-CID, Tamil Nadu police