The latest cyber scam: Unknown international calls on WhatsApp

NewsThe latest cyber scam: Unknown international calls on WhatsApp

NEW DELHI: As internet penetration increases in India, so does cyber scam, which is now leaving no one untouched. Scamsters and cyber criminals are devising newer ways daily to dupe more and more people of their hard-earned money.
One of the recent activities by the cyber scamsters is about using international numbers to lure potential targets and rob them of their money under the pretext of offering easy money.
These scamsters or cyber criminals are using internet-based instant messaging applications to reach out to potential targets and lure them with offers of part-time jobs or are asking them to provide fake likes and views on YouTube videos and earn money in return.
The modus operandi of these criminals includes reaching out to random WhatsApp users using international codes that start with +84 (Vietnam), +62 (Indonesia), +1 (United States), +212 (Morocco), +251 (Ethiopia), +880 (Bangladesh), among others, and offering them part-time jobs or to follow or like or share videos on YouTube and Instagram (social media applications).
This correspondent has also been receiving such messages and calls from these international numbers over the last two months. Most of these calls are voice calls that disconnect after two or three rings. Three calls are made at one instance either from the same number or from multiple international numbers.
To ascertain what this scam is about, this correspondent responded to one of the messages that was received in his WhatsApp chat that began with “Hi, I am XXX, are you looking for extra income?” Once replied with a Yes, the person on the other side introduced oneself as an employee of a popular recruitment website in India and said that they were looking for people on a mass scale to like YouTube videos for which Rs 150 would be paid for each like.
On proceeding further, the scamsters sent this correspondent a pro forma seeking details like name, date of birth, educational qualification and current job status.
After filling the form, this correspondent was shared with a YouTube video and was asked to like the video from his account and share a screenshot after which an amount of Rs 150 would be credited into his account.
However, the correspondent stopped at this point, as sharing bank account details was not wise. The scamster on the other side insisted on bank account details or the UPI ID so that they could transfer the money into the account and further add him to a group on Telegram, another internet-based instant messaging application for further income.
However, after investigating, it came to notice that the Telegram group was created to lure the targets to invest in cryptocurrencies to get quick money and also doubling the income in three days. Since then, this correspondent has been regularly receiving calls and messages from international numbers such as +212-679-911022, +84-84-284-5083, +1(680)-2039339, +84-94-6502843, and several other numbers.
Twitter is also abuzz with several users putting out their story on how people are constantly receiving such messages and calls offering them part-time jobs and easy money after completion of simple tasks such as liking YouTube videos. A Twitter user, Varun Ganjoo, shared how he was lured for a part-time job offering an earning of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 daily just by liking videos on social media. Ganjoo also explained in his Twitter thread how he was taken to a Telegram group that offered to double his money within some time by investing in cryptocurrencies.
Another Twitter user wrote, “Beware, I am sure everyone is receiving these random calls and messages on WhatsApp from international numbers with pictures of beautiful girls. Don’t fall for them, they are scamming people.”
The Delhi Police have also received numerous complaints over such scams in the national capital and have apprised WhatsApp over this. Sources in Delhi Police said that they have received complaints from people who have lost Rs 30 lakh to Rs 50 lakh in these scams.
Delhi Police officials also say that the wave of such high volume of fraud and spam calls is unprecedented and the sheer number of users who are getting these calls are huge which they have never seen before and have advised people not to respond to such calls and messages and rather block and report those numbers on WhatsApp.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has also taken cognizance of the matter and have asked WhatsApp to fix the issue. The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has also taken up the matter with Meta (the owner of WhatsApp) to address and fix the issue at the earliest.
WhatsApp on Thursday issued a statement saying, “WhatsApp is a leader among end-to-end encrypted services in protecting user safety. We continue to provide several safety tools within WhatsApp like Block and Report, consistently build user safety education & awareness, as well as, proactively weed out bad-actors from our platform. However, bad actors find different ways to scam users. International scam calls are a new way that bad actors have recently adopted. By giving a missed call, they lead curious users to call or message back only to get scammed,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
“Therefore, we have quickly ramped up our AI & ML systems to bring down such incidents significantly. Our new enforcement will reduce the current calling rate by at least 50% and we expect to be able to control the current incidence effectively. We will continue to work relentlessly towards ensuring a safe experience for our users,” the WhatsApp spokesperson added.

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