Cyber crooks now set up fake online trading platforms to snare investors

Fraudsters target IT professionals Convincing links resemble official websites Victims lured with the promise of stock market investment.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.(Express Illustration)

BENGALURU : In what appears to be a new trend in cybercrime, cases of cyber crooks exploiting names of well-known online trading platforms to deceive gullible victims, has come to the fore.

Since the beginning of the year, at least three cases of fraudsters impersonating employees of zero-brokerage trading sites and cheating software professionals to the tune of Rs 2 crore, were reported. The victims were deceived under the pretence of stock market investments, and received daily returns in their e-wallets, as part of a fake website of the firm, in the form of Bitcoins, which later proved to be of no real value.

Police said the fraudsters, claiming to be employees of trusted online trading sites, targeted IT professionals specifically, and approached them via WhatsApp. The provided their victims a convincing link closely resembling the official websites where trading activities were done and investments made by two techies.

The fraudulent website was meticulously designed, incorporating authentic login credentials and a live tracker for monitoring investment status, leaving no room for doubt in the victims.

After each investment, returns were credited in the form of Bitcoins in the e-wallet. Victims, under the impression that Bitcoins held a substantial value, invested amounts of around Rs 80 lakh, Rs 24 lakh and Rs 90 lakh each, in a bid to gain higher returns. After a significant investment was made, the live tracker initially stopped indicating the investment progress, and later, the login credentials were completely changed, which prevented the victims from accessing the website.

The victims then checked their e-wallet, which had the expected balance. However, when the victims approached another person from a different entity to sell the Bitcoins and get them converted to cash, they discovered that it had no value. A police officer explained that in a digitally advanced world, people willingly share phone numbers across numerous websites for various purposes, including shopping, business transactions and work-related activities. Many overlook the potential risks associated with sharing phone numbers, believing it is just a number, without realizing that this paves the way for traps and fraudulent activities.

Frequently, a pattern is observed where people, when sharing their phone numbers while searching for services such as credit cards, consistently receive similar calls thereafter. The critical part is that on receiving such calls, people often trust the caller, assuming the call is from a genuine service provider as they had searched for one, he added.

The officer emphasized that prompt reporting is crucial as in one of the cases, a person who invested Rs 24 lakh could get Rs 7 lakh back as he immediately dialled 1930, the national cybercrime helpline number. This led to police freezing the amount.

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The New Indian Express