Rising threat: Beware of international call scams as cyber fraud sees alarming surge

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Picture this – Mukul Gogoi, a technical consultant in Assam, while coordinating payments for his daughter’s education in Canada, received a call with a country code +92, seemingly from Canada. The caller, who used proper Hindi, claimed to be in Canada and tried to establish a friendly conversation. Mukul, however, detected the discrepancy, realising it was a fraud call, and promptly disconnected.

But not everyone is as fortunate or aware as Mukul. Cybercrime witnessed a 24% surge in 2022 in India compared to the previous year, with cyber frauds showing a consistent upward trend, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. In 2020, the country recorded 50,035 cases of cyber fraud, which increased to 52,974 cases in 2021 and reached a total of 65,893 cases in 2022.

Cybercriminals are increasingly employing diverse tactics to deceive their targets, ranging from job scams and sextortion to OTP fraud and bank account hacking. An emerging method involves fraudulent international calls, where scammers use an overseas country code to tailor their script to the victim’s preferences. These calls often exploit the victim’s search history, deceiving individuals with promises of overseas job opportunities, better living conditions for family members abroad, or enticing investment prospects in foreign entities.

Experts emphasise that seemingly international calls may be routed domestically, and fraudsters, upon detecting foreign connections, adapt their methods accordingly. Data breaches expose individuals to these fraudsters, accessing information from every transaction, purchase, or call, making data safety a pressing concern.

Sanjay Shintre from Maharashtra Cyber Cell underscores the widespread availability of personal data, emphasizing the urgent need for data protection measures. “Our data is not safe. It’s available everywhere. Every purchase we make, every transaction, every call from any service provider exposes our data. This data is at times available in public domain. The fraudsters have easy access to our data and that is a huge concern,” said Shintre.

Policymakers, including the RBI’s Deputy Governor Swaminathan J, advocate for prioritising data safety, cautioning against compromising internal controls or reputations through outsourcing. The government has enacted the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, awaiting implementation in the 2024 Budget session.

While legal frameworks aim to enhance cybersecurity, experts stress that user awareness remains the primary defence against cybercrime. They advise individuals to report scams promptly to Cyber Crime portals or by calling 1930. Any request for personal data, PINs, or OTPs should raise red flags, with online transactions restricted to verified and secure portals. Additional precautions include avoiding unknown video calls, skepticism towards too-good-to-be-true offers, and refraining from uploading sensitive information to untrusted platforms.

This article was originally sourced from www.cnbctv18.com