Spot the Ravan

images (3)Hello everyone! Here’s wishing you a very Happy Dasara on the occasion of Vijayadashmi!!! Today is supposed to mark the end of Raavan, the King of Lanka, who abducted Sita. It also marks the triumph of Good over evil.

Here is the story of her abduction/kidnapping for some background. The couple Ram and Sita are staying the forest as a part of their vanavasa with Ram’s brother Lakshman. Ravana is the king of Lanka who has his heart set on Sita. So plans to kidnap her. He takes help from Mareecha, who is his uncle and has the power to transform himself into any form. Mareecha transforms into a golden deer and walks into the ashram where Sita, Ram & Lakshman are staying. On seeing the deer, fascinated by it’s beauty, Sita asks her husband to get it for her. The brothers have their doubt as they had never seen such a creature but Sita has her heart set on it.

Ram sets out while leaving Lakshman behind to protect Sita. The deer takes Ram deeper and deeper into the forest. In a few minutes, Lakshman hears Ram cry out for help. Ofcourse, it isn’t Ram but another of Mareecha’s trick. Lakshman not knowing what to do  stays put. But Sita is worried about her husband and makes her BIL go look for Ram. Lakshaman agrees, draws a magical boundary around the hut which would protect Sita in his absence and leaves. Now Raavan disguised as a hermit asking for food comes to the hut. Obviously Sita offers him food. When she offers the food he can’t reach for it so he asks her to step out of the boundary to give the offering. After all, what harm could an old hermit asking for alms pose, right? Wrong! Once she crosses the boundary, voila there he is – The mighty Raavan, laughing away at the Sita’s folly and happy for his prize.

Now this is a very familiar story and anybody related to the Indian subcontinent remotely already knows the story. The point of me reiterating it here is we all have been Sita at some or the other point of time. We fail to recognize the threats and fall into the trap readily. So it is important, we be aware no matter how benign the threats look.

Be careful the next time you open the door for a stranger or give out information to a random person on the phone or the Internet. Look before you leap!! Don’t let the golden deer entice you.

Hope you all have a happy and safe celebration!

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Going Global

phone_scamYou had a good night’s sleep and you wake up refreshed in the morning. And as the millennial routine goes you pick up your phone to check messages/feed even before you brush your teeth. You see a burst of missed calls and you wonder what happened. Who called you in the dead of the night, what is the emergency and why is it that you did not hear the call? In a state of panic you call back to check.

What you do not realize is that the number is an International number usually starting with an international code of +3xxx or +2xxx and at the end of the month you get a bill with a large number.  +381 and +375 are the ones I have seen on my phone. But there are quite a few countries where these calls originate from. Russia, African countries – Nigeria, Burundi, Malawi, Mali…,  USSR countries – Serbia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan even. Egypt, Iraq are the latest entrants. US is there in the list too. Obviously, I have no friends and family staying in the Serbia or Belarus so I didn’t call back. But why would they call? Why wouldn’t I hear the call?

This is a phone scam called ‘Wangiri’. Wangiri is  Japanese for ‘one ring and cut’. This scam originated in Japan, hence the Japanese name. They usually give a single ring and cut the call which is why you wouldn’t have heard the ring or received the call. These numbers are international premium rate numbers (IPRN) so when you call back you are charged call rates which are higher than the regular rates. What do the callers get? A share of the call revenue.

Sometimes they also text a number asking you to call back. Usually on the lines of “Urgent, Please call!!”

When you call you either hear some adult content, hold music tone, silence or some recorded voice. The longer you stay on the call the more money they make.

Apart from this it is also supposedly used for  voice recording and using it for making calls to your bank and impersonating you. Some of them also apparently copy your private data or download trojan to your device. Although am not sure of these claims or the technology that can be used to do this I am just adding the info. Please verify this from a credible source before believing or passing on this information.

What can you do to avoid being scammed here:

Do not call back or even receive calls when it comes from an unknown International number. If it is your friend or a family member exchange the number before-hand through email or text message or Whatsapp.

Google for country codes when you get calls from unknown International numbers. And also search for phone scams and avoid numbers from those countries.

Report these numbers to operators and also block those numbers. You an app like truecaller to identify callers.

Losing money from calling back may be a one-time thing but if you lose personal data that may be more damaging. Stay safe!

This is part of my custom ‘Jaago Grahak Jaago’ series. Do check out the other similar post and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Prince charming calls

Nigerian-PrinceWe have all waited for our Prince charming some or the other time in our life. I didn’t have to wait for it long. No sooner had I opened an email account, I got an email from a Nigerian Prince. Whats more he was offering me money. Large sums of it. In dollars no less. And he was so polite! He was slightly bad at English and grammar but hey you can’t have it all! However, Prince is a bit much for me. I’d prefer a commoner to be more honest. My insecurities told me so. So I just let it go.

A few days later, Coca Cola told me I won some prize for a lottery that I never purchased. This time in GBP. The next time it was Hero Honda and oh my God the emails just kept pouring in. They all told me how they found me in some directory and how they found me trust worthy and how my credit score just shines! I was wondering why I don’t I meet these people in real life. I should have shown some of these emails to my friends! Once I bought a phone I got text messages with similar prize money. Then when I went online for searching something and even these websites started offering me money. Lucky me!

But am sure I ain’t the only lucky person. Anybody who hasn’t been living under a rock has been this lucky sometime or the other. This is what is called a Nigerian scam or a 419 scam based on the International code for Nigeria. Most of these emails originate from Nigeria. About 60% of them, hence the name. This is THE MOST common scams around. Apart from being the most common, the variations of this scam are the oldest as well.

The older form of this scam called ‘Spanish prisoner scam’ is from the 18th century. Individuals are contacted and offered a part of somebody’s fortune in exchange for a bribe money you pay to get the person out of the prison. The newer one offers you a prize money or it says someone wants to transfer a huge sum of money and needs an ally. In exchange you get to keep a percentage of it. They always have a story of why they need your assistance. Sometimes they are also you a job. This is used to get money from you and also for identity theft. Just Google for Nigerian scam and you’ll find a wealth of information.

You might have thought who’d fall for such a scam but as per one study, in 2013, an estimated $12.7 billion was lost to these scams worldwide. That means somebody is still falling for this trick even almost a century later. The reason is pretty simple. Lure of easy money and also the fact that this is a big industry in some poorer countries and done on a large scale as a full time job with proper training. They keep updating themselves and come up with newer stories and tricks every once in a while.

Now to the important part what to do when you are at the receiving end of such an email/text/call/fax/ad.

Check any email that you get for sender. Most of these originate from the web based emails. and have bad English, grammar or badly made logos. All reputed companies have their own domain and also use the email ids of their own domain. The scammers have off late gotten sophisticated and use legit sounding names and better logos but with a slight effort you can find out the real sender.

In case of doubt, you can Google search and check the senders IP. Check if it is in the spam database.

Don’t respond! Just delete it and mark it as spam. Again don’t click on the mark spam and unsubscribe. You do not even to confirm that such an email id exists and being used.

Do NOT part with any personal details whatsoever. Least of all your bank account details.

If at all, you have given any money or details and are being pursued for more money, inform the police and get out of the situation. The ‘sunk cost fallacy’ makes you act otherwise, counter to your own best interests and you keep giving more money.  Do yourself a favor and stop!

And lastly the usual culprit, if something is too good to be true, remember, it most certainly is! Do not trust random emails/random stroke of luck. Use your judgement. Or rather don’t let your judgement get clouded!

This is part of my very own ‘Jaago Grahak Jaago’ series. The previous post in the series is ”Striking gold“. More coming later. Hope you guys like them. Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below. And have a great day!

Striking Gold

Gold-coinLife has its ups and downs but once in a while you get an offer that you just cannot refuse. You strike Gold! In my case quite literally. I was having lunch with my folks on a peaceful Sunday afternoon and I got a call on my mobile. The speaker said, he is from a remote part of Rajasthan and while digging some ruins for archaeological purposes they found gold. A good number of kilos. I don’t remember the exact number now. This was about a 5-6 years ago. But it was a good number. And now he had to give it to the government which is as per the law. So he proposed a solution, he could sell me the gold at almost half the market rates. I transfer the money and he ships the gold to my house.

Great deal, right? Except I am not a gold enthusiast and more importantly I could tell this was a scam, so I refused. The guy asked me to reconsider. He persisted and also lamented for I was letting go of such a fantastic opportunity.

Then I got talking to my Dad and it indeed was a scam! A thumb-rule that you can apply here, If something sounds too good to be true then it most probably is!! This is just one instance. There are many variations of this call. I plan to write a serious of these posts with the details of scams I have come across or have friends who have come across these instances.

Why is it that people fall for these scams? Well that one is easy. Easy money!! Easy money and the lure of a windfall. This one comes with an additional incentive of being able to screw the Government; Sone pe Suhaga(pun intended!). Irresistible package.

Now how to deal with these people:

Do NOT engage with them. I thought I am the smart one and just wanted to see how the caller responds so I did ask him a few questions on how he got my number, how is it that no one else knows about him finding the gold and the likes. He had an answer for all of them. He had anticipated these questions and had the answers handy. In hindsight, I should have just cut the call. Do not get into a conversation with these people. Just hang up.

Do NOT share any personal information whatsoever. And that includes even your name. It is not a big deal to find a bunch of phone numbers and the corresponding names. Especially not in our country with such lax regard for data privacy both by the Government and the individuals. So even if the caller is able to identify you and rattle off a few details of yours from some list do not fall for it.

Report scam. Actually I haven’t tried this one yet. If you get in touch with the police they should be able to direct you to the cyber crime cell. Registering for DND(Do Not Disturb)  to 1909 is something I have tried and works to a certain extent. You can also call 1909 which is toll free number and is a service offered by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). If you are a frequent recipient of scam/spam calls and messages, there is also an android app “India against spam” which is an award winning app. Not sure if the other OSes have this app. Let me know in the comments if any of you are aware. This helps report the call/message with a single tap.

Last and the most important of all: Be skeptical, be aware of things happening around you and question people before you buy into anything. And remember there is no such thing as a easy money. Anything that you get easily gets squandered easily too. This cliched gyaan makes sense. Think about it!

Stay Safe

Yesterday was one of the rare weekdays when I was home and the bell rang in the afternoon at around 2 pm. I was wondering who would have come at this hour and opened the door gingerly. There was a man standing who asked “Saab nahi hai?” A line that would work in almost all cases. All the houses have atleast one saab, no? He then said “The Saab” has asked him to do some repair work in the bathroom. For a second I was relieved that finally we managed to find a repairman for the pending work since weeks. But wait I hadn’t seen this repairman in any repairs that we had gotten done at our place and our owner clearly stated many times earlier our house problems while we are staying are our own and they can’t be of much help so he wont be sending any men for repair. Then it striked he was a conman!

On me saying I don’t know of any such repair to be done at our place, he tried many things like

  • I have come all the way from Alandi. Insert any far off place. It will work
  • Isn’t it A sir’s house. How difficult is it to get the owner’s name against the flat number from the society board
  • He then pretended to call the saab. Asked me if the number was starting with 987… Again common starting number for Pune numbers.
  • Fortunately I had the sense to not leave the door open and rush to get my cell and call.
  • He then asked me if the owner is from Rajasthan. I can guess that too from the surname.
  • And he finally left after that when I closed the door shut properly.
  • A call to our owner confirmed my suspicion

I thought he was a conman because this reminded me of a similar incident with my Mom when we were kids. My mom didn’t fall for this because my Dad has always been communicative. He would have informed my Mom for sure if she was to expect to any repairman.

Just the same day when I read the news in the evening I read of three people losing gold in Pune to gold-polishing conmen. The oldest trick in the book for stealing gold and yet people fall for it(just like the Nigerian scam).  Roof repair scams are pretty common too.

We need to be more careful who we let into our houses even if it is for repair. I know this sounds like a Savdhaan India/Crime Patrol tagline but I am going to saying it anyway

Stay Alert! Stay Safe!

Rat hole

There was time when I was looking for a PG(paying guest) accommodation to stay in Bangalore. In the most places the broker showed, I could hardly bring myself to look at the place, let alone stay there. They looked like rat holes. And obviously I did not take up the place. A rat hole isn’t my idea of home!

rathole

I was talking to a friend of mine this afternoon when she mentioned about a previous roommate of hers who owned a pet RAT! The only other person I have heard of, who owns a rat, is Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series. I didn’t like the pet in the book and no way I can find it cute it real life. But when I started thinking about it, it is personal choice right. Who am I to judge?

Having said that, I have some personal choices too and sharing a living space with a rat isn’t one of them. Would be able to stay with a person who owns a pet rat and give a rat’s ass about it?

Chain of events

Chain snatching is a common phenomenon in India. Indians are obsessed  with gold and what better way to make some quick money than snatch the gold chains from unsuspecting ladies walking down the street.

csNot only do these thieves snatch the chains but also harm the women. To avoid getting into such situations most women these days resort to artificial jewellery.

Recently when Me and my roomie were trading our chain snatching stories, we came across one where the guy snatched a chain went off on his bike. Very quickly he found out the chain was not real gold so he came back, threw the chain on the girl’s face and slapped her hard :O Talk about misplaced sense of entitlement.

Talking about  misplaced sense of entitlement, the one that takes the cake is MCPs who believe to rape is a man’s right . Check out the recent statement by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Shakti Mills rape case.

God save our country from such #idioticLeaders. Hopefully God is listening. In the meanwhile we can do our bit by voting responsibly in this elections.

Such leaders have snatched more than just gold chains during the last 60 years. Now time has come to act. Please Vote and vote responsibly!