Andhra Pradesh: Cyber con artists design fake RTA website, dupe public of lakhs

Speaking to TNIE, RTA officials have appealed to the public to verify the safety and security level of any website before they browse or make payment to avail any government service. 

Published: 06th January 2019 10:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th January 2019 10:38 AM   |  A+A-

cyber security

For representational purposes

By Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA: At a time when the State government is making efforts to bring its public services online by integrating all departments on e-Pragati online user service platform, cyber fraudsters, who are always in search of new ways and means to cheat public, created a fake website, this time, of Road Transport Authority (RTA) department.

Senior officials of the State Road Transport department (IT wing) were in a deep shock on coming to know that cybercriminals have created a duplicate website of their department and are duping the public by offering departmental services.

The fake website, rtoonline.com, looks exactly the same as the original website — aprtacitizen.epragathi.org — and the fraudsters managed to attract users by obtaining an attention-getting name when they (users) browse the internet for paying vehicle taxes and for other services such as licence renewal, medical certificate, payment for vehicle number registration and 25 other services available online.

The incident of the fake website first came to the notice of RTA officials in Visakhapatnam in December last when around 10 people approached Visakhapatnam Deputy Transport Commissioner (DTC) S Venkateswara Rao claiming that they didn’t receive any acknowledgment letter for the payments made for a new licence.

Immediately suspicious about the complaints, Rao asked the victims to show the website from which they had made the payment. “When they showed the website —  rtoonline.com — I realised that cyber fraudsters were taking the public for a ride by creating a duplicate website,” he said.

The DTC reported the same to the Transport Commissioner office in Vijayawada in the same month and requested action. With many similar complaints surfacing again in January, senior officials called for a departmental inquiry into the issue and lodged a complaint with CID police on Friday.

Following the complaint, a case under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was lodged and an investigation was taken up. “In the preliminary investigation, we tracked the IP address of the fake website and came to know that fraudsters are based in Mumbai. They must have collected lakhs of rupees from the public by now. Immediately we filed a case and called for a detailed investigation,” said a senior police officer from the CID.

Speaking to TNIE, RTA officials have appealed to the public to verify the safety and security level of any website before they browse or make payment to avail any government service. 

“If the site information bar shows Not Secure on any government related websites, it means the website is fake and payments done on the website will reach the pockets of cybercriminals. For RTA related services, e-Pragati platform is safe and secure,” DTC- IT  M Purendra said. 

Cybercrime

  • The original website of RTA is aprtacitizen.epragathi.org

  • Fraudsters created a duplicate website, rtoonline.com

  • The issue came to light first in Visakhapatnam.

  • Through a fake payment gateway, cyber criminals cheated public of lakhs of rupees.

  • The fake website is being operated from Mumbai 

  • Once the payment is done, the duplicate website goes into the dark and displays Technical Error message

  • Cybercriminals are using catchy web addresses to cheat the public

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