Offered easy money through an app? It could well be a trap

Multi-level marketing scams have donned an online avatar. Instead of pamphlets and posters, scammers use messages, audio and videos to trap people.

Published: 25th November 2021 06:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th November 2021 06:58 AM   |  A+A-


Express News Service

CHENNAI: Multi-level marketing scams have donned an online avatar. Instead of pamphlets and posters, scammers use messages, audio and videos to trap people. For example, there are apps that promise high returns on investments. On registering, you get a referral code to share with your friends. And once they register, you get paid. Then they, in turn, invest and get referral codes to share.

These apps claim your investment goes towards a particular project, and the returns will be given to you. But that doesn’t always happen, explains Srikanth Lakshmanan, a researcher tracking digital payments and fraud. The scammers go to great lengths to make their companies appear legitimate. They pay the first level of people who join or sign up, and through them, attract others. But once more people join and invest, the returns stop, says Lakshmanan.

One such company used the name ‘World Bank’ to cheat people in the guise of angel funding. It created several groups on online messaging platforms, and uploaded pictures of people and pamphlets to convince victims. Once it was found to be a scam, the World Bank had to put out a warning to caution people, he points out.

Recently, a software engineer from Chennai invested in a similar app, received a referral code, and shared it with his friends, who then followed his footsteps. He received returns in his account on the app for each person who used his code. But when he sought to withdraw the money, the app and company stopped responding. Ultimately, he had to pay back the people he led to invest in the app.

Many such apps are available on online app stores, but most of the ones used by scammers can only be downloaded from the links they send, says a senior cyber crime officer, adding that the only way to be immune to such frauds is to stay aware. This means being cautious about apps and links that scammers may ask you to use.

And if you happen to fall prey to such frauds, report it immediately, says the officer. “The quicker you report it to the police, the easier it is to freeze the culprit’s account.” Once an issue is reported, network providers, banks, and cybercrime officials work together to crack the case. “Even if the culprit is not apprehended, at least there’s a chance of tracing the funds,” the officer adds.

(To report any kind of cyber crime, dial 155260)

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