KOCHI: Though the literacy rate in Kerala is one of the highest in India, the number of online cheating cases are on the rise in the state. According to police officials and experts working in cyber space, most cyber cheating cases are related to financial frauds involving organised gangs operating from North Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, New Delhi and Jharkhand.
As per the data with the police, 288 online cheating complaints were received in Kerala in 2021 compared to 135 in 2020 and 79 till February 15, 2022. Later, the police registered 176 FIRs for cheating in 2021, 109 in 2020 and 30 in 2022. In 2021, there were 190 accused persons in the cases registered compared to 275 in 2020 and 200 in 2022. As many as 109 persons were arrested in cyber cheating cases in 2021 compared to 143 in 2020 and one in 2022. As far as fraudulent companies involved in such scams, the police took action against 10 of them last year compared to 13 in 2020 and one this year.
Advocate Jiyas Jamal, cyber expert and founder of NGO Cyber Suraksha Foundation, said bogus online loan apps and companies are a major threat to society. According to him, not only just OTP-related online frauds but a number of people are also getting cheated after being offered loans.
“Recently, we came to know of a new online loan fraud in which customers are asked to just log in to an app or a website. Once the customer logs in, even if he/she doesn’t take a loan, the person starts getting calls claiming that the amount had been deposited in his/her account. Later, the tone of the ‘loan provider’ changes and the caller issues threats to defame the person in cyber space. We know about several victims of online loan sharks being defamed through social media platforms. If the person is a woman, she is accused of being a sex worker or if it is a man, he will be portrayed a rape accused along with their personal mobile phone numbers,” he said.
According to an officer in Kerala Police’s Cyberdome, mostly, elderly persons or new users become easy targets of online fraudsters. In spite of all campaigns carried out by different firms not to share OTPs with other persons, such cases are still being reported in different parts of the country.
“Often, people going after gifts and easy money get trapped by such fraudsters. There are also being cheated by promising attractive insurance schemes, service package and tour package offers. In some cases, scammers ask to install a third-party app on the mobile phone or laptop to take control of the devices,” he said.
He advised people to never install a third-party app on the direction of a call centre person. Similarly, never share debit/credit card details, CVV numbers and OTPs.