A young lady from Nadia district of West Bengal who had recently started selling sarees online to support her family’s dwindling income during this pandemic was elated to get a bulk order last week. In response to pictures of her products she had posted on social media, one person approached her seeking to buy ten sarees.
They settled the deal for ₹8,500. The ‘customer’ offered to make the payment online, which is quite natural for e-commerce transactions. Moments later, the prospective buyer sent the lady a quick response (QR) code asking her to scan it for immediate payment transfer.
The moment she scanned the code, ₹10,000 was debited from her account.
Another woman from Kolkata’s Jadavpur area, who sells online German silver jewellery, lost ₹48,000 in a similar fashion after she scanned the QR code sent by a “buyer.”
These are just a few cases among the numerous such complaints of cyber frauds that the police received in the past few months.
In the last 10 days, the Kolkata Police alone received around 50 such complaints of fraudsters duping people with fake QR code, posing either as buyer or seller.
Most of the victims were women who had ventured into online business just recently to support their families, according to the police.
Giving details, police said these fake codes contain Trojan horses or malware, which allows the hacker to gain access to bank details of the victim stored on their phone.
These QR code frauds are just one aspect of the growing cybercrimes in the country in general and the state in particular during this pandemic period when online transactions have increased manifold.
Police sources said job fraud is another growing trend in cybercrime. On Wednesday (August 26), the cyber cell of Bidhannagar Police arrested two persons, identified as Rabindranath Mandal and Suprajit Mukherjee, for allegedly duping many on the pretence of providing government jobs.
Police said the general modus operandi of the fake job rackets is to first approach job seekers, accessing their profile from job recruitment sites. Simultaneously, the fraudsters would create fake websites of government departments to advertise for the job and to fill relevant forms. After the fake formalities were completed, the candidates would be approached by agents with a promise to provide the job in exchange of money. Many of these racketeers would even provide fake appointment letters.
Police said there has been at least a 15-20 per cent rise in cybercrimes in the state during this pandemic, adding, it is not a state-specific trend. Two professors and a retired bureaucrat were among the many recent victims of this growing crime in the state.
According to UN data, there has been a 350 per cent rise in phishing websites in the first quarter of the year.
In India too, there has been a sharp spike in cybercrimes since the outbreak of Covid-19 as cyber frauds are taking advantage of increasing dependence on the virtual world. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in June had alerted the states about the growing trend.
To prevent such crimes, cyber cells of the police are, from time to time, issuing advisories to the citizens, but the cyber fraudsters are coming up with newer methods to cheat people, a senior police officer said.