sextortion; Aadhaar Fingerprint Loan and Cloning Application Pitfalls
Technology is a boon and a great leveler because it does not discriminate between users. However, fraudsters and cheaters are one step ahead of ordinary people when it comes to using technology for fraudulent purposes. This week, we’ll see how Instagram/Facebook messages followed by nude video calls are used to blackmail the recipient. We will also check how loan apps are making life difficult for borrowers even for a small repayment glitch, and how a gang created people’s fingerprints to siphon money through Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) .
Aadhaar Fingerprint Cloning at Siphon Money
Fingerprints were first used for crime detection. Over time, it also became apparent that fingerprinting was not as foolproof as its proponents suggested. Yet, in India, biometrics or fingerprints have been introduced through the Aadhaar digital identification system.
A group of people, registered as Common Service Centers (CSCs) for e-governance services in municipalities and villages in Gwalior district, learned this technique very quickly. By stealing the thumbprints of the villagers, they cloned the fingerprints and withdrew money through AEPS.
AEPS allows a person to withdraw money from their bank account using a local business correspondent anywhere in the country, which also facilitates fraud.
Loan Application Pitfalls: How Borrowers Continue to be Hounded for Collections
Coimbatore Police’s cybersecurity wing has warned residents against mobile apps luring people into lending traps. Police say even just downloading these loan apps could lead to problems.
There are over 300 such lending apps and the biggest problem with each of them is that they collect everyone’s contact details from the person’s directory and transfer all available data from the gallery to the loan application account. In case the borrower fails to repay the loan on time, the app company harasses the borrowers’ contacts, including sending them messages asking them to pay, as well as abusive and defamatory messages and even transformed nude images of the person. They also use social media like WhatsApp to shame borrowers for not repaying a loan.
Sometimes debt collectors continue to extract money from the borrower, under one pretext or another, even after the entire loan has been paid off. Coimbatore police have registered at least 30 such complaints. Two people from Mumbai had a similar experience using loan apps called Koko and Janecoin. They continued to receive threatening messages even after refunding the full amount. In both cases, enforcement officers threatened to defame their relatives.
“Hello friend. It’s you in the video!”
It is the new avatar of fraudulent messages that many people have received from friends, colleagues or relatives on WhatsApp or, more often, on Facebook Messenger. Through this message (Do you in the video), scammers attempt to arouse curiosity and a sense of urgency in their victims to click on the link. They also seem safe or harmless since they evoke neither “fear” nor “greed”.
However, this is part of a bigger scam. People click the link in the post to check if they’re in the video. This forces them to use their username and password. The video itself is immaterial; the login process gives the fraudster the victim’s username and password. This is then used to gather more information about the victim and cause loss including but not limited to financial loss.
Don’t rush to click on every link you receive, even from someone you may know. If in doubt, just call the sender to inquire about the legitimacy of the message. Nothing is ever so urgent that you can’t make a quick phone call to check the facts. It would definitely save you a lot of trouble.
Message, naked video calls and blackmail
This is how it works. First, the victim receives a message or a friend request on Facebook or any other social media. Then a video call and a chat. This is soon followed by a series of morphed nude messages from the victim with a threat to go public. This is called a sextortion scam. They immediately cause shame and panic and are often so disturbing that they have even had tragic consequences.
In the original sextortion scams, emails mislead victims into believing that the attacker has a recording of their screen and camera and that the recording contains images or videos of the potential victim in sexually explicit situations.
As soon as the executive accepted the request, the lady made video calls. “At first, I ignored the calls, but after seven or eight of them, I answered the phone. On the other side, there was a naked woman performing lewd acts. It took me about 15 seconds to figure out what was going on. And then, I disconnected the call,” he told the newspaper.
Then the woman sent him messages threatening to make the video public. However, the executive ignored the post and deleted the woman from his Instagram friends list.
Fifteen minutes later, he began to receive frantic messages and calls from family and friends about a “video” they had received. “The scammers had taken a picture of my face during the video call I had with them and superimposed it on someone else’s body. In the video they shared, it appears that I’m having a sex conversation,” he says.
Agra Cyber Police have arrested three Mewat men allegedly involved in various forms of cybercrime, including making “naked video calls to blackmail people”. Police believe it was this same gang that targeted the executive.
A Mumbai-based lawyer was also victimized via Facebook.
The trick here is to stay calm, not fall for the threats, and report the matter to the cybercrime police immediately. Ideally, have a lawyer present. Often the police advise people to just block the caller after telling them that the case has been filed with the police and nothing more is heard from the scammers afterwards.
Remember that scammers emphasize humiliation and embarrassment to blackmail the victim into paying them money. So do not answer and pay nothing.
In short, when using social media, you need to follow some basic rules. This includes the one your mother told you – to stay away from strangers.