Et tu, target?

2I was talking to a friend the other day about the scam series of posts I am doing on the blog. And she mentioned how the poor tech illiterate folks get duped. And my reaction was NO. Not really. Yes it is very easy to scam someone who is not very tech savvy that especially includes the rural folk, the senior citizens etc. But here is a list that’ll help you assess whether you can be scammed:

  • Are you Human?

End of list. If you are a human being with aspirations, fears, insecurities, dreams, or just a human body then you qualify. While most of the scams rely on psychological tricks some simply work because you are tired, sleepy, or you have to pee and things like that. And mind you scammers target people of all walks of life, age, gender, background and income levels. There are retired policemen who have been victims of scam. Somebody who has spent a lifetime getting into a criminal’s minds and catching them. They have the information of the most common conman tricks. This is somebody who is professionally trained to questions each and everything around them, look for details, investigate and analyse things! Then what chance does a layman have?

  • Some of the simpler ones like a pickpocket relies on you being temporarily distracted for a few seconds. The modus operandi is usually there is one person who distracts you with a question like what time it is or do you know a particular address or just bump into you on a busy road and while you are processing this information your wallet has quickly reached his accomplices hand who in turn passes it on to a third person.
  • Some others like a telephone call saying your card has been blocked and needs to be reactivated using your PIN is preying on your fear & anxiety of you not being able to access your own money.
  • Fake modeling agencies and casting agencies makes use of your aspirations of becoming a famous film star , pop star or a super model.
  • Scams like ‘signed cancelled cheques’ use your ignorance of banking procedures.
  • Love scams target your need for a companion. Lonely/single people are the target.
  • Fake police and post scams rely on your social compliance and conformance to people in uniforms or Government agencies.
  • Fake crying baby sounds and the fake accident victim scams exploit your inherent human compassion and good Samaritan nature.
  • Scams targeting old people rely on their slower mental reflexes and their lack of knowledge updation.
  • Most scams like Nigerian scams exploit simple human greed.

Now that we know anybody can be scammed what do we do about it

  • Rule of thumb that applies to EVERYBODY(Unless you are Eklavya!) – If it is too good to be true, it probably is!!!
  • Beware of strangers! Stranger Danger isn’t a myth. Don’t let strangers into your house. Don’t give out information to strangers on phone or in person. Don’t trust strangers easily.
  • Be Aware of your surroundings and try and keep yourself updated with the happenings in the World. Difficult! I know! I myself haven’t read a newspaper for  ages now.
  • Question things! Try and keep your calm and think logically even in difficult situations!
  • And after all we are only human. We cannot be hyper alert all the time. We falter and when you do seek help! From your friends and the concerned authorities. Report the scams and make others around you aware too.
  • And lastly keep reading my blog! Check out the other posts in the same series. I won’t bore you. Promise!!

#JaagoDearJaago!

 

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!