16 second video call, 18 months of distress for the IAS officer
Luck now: It was a 16 second video call and this IAS officer hasn’t slept properly for the past 18 months.
His family life is in shambles and he is under intense stress.
It was in February last year that the officer received a video call from a woman.
Less than ten minutes later, he received his transformed photograph with the woman in a compromising position. Before he could realize what had happened, the photographs had been sent on WhatsApp to his three daughters and his wife.
The number used was ‘unavailable’ after that and he received a call on his landline number asking Rs five lakhs if he didn’t want the pictures to go viral.
The agent contacted the cyber cell, which got to work. The appellants were found and sent to jail, but released on bail within five months.
“I haven’t slept since it happened. I can’t face my daughters and my wife even though they know the photographs have been transformed. Every unknown call confuses me and my life is in a state of deep distress,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh has become a “huge market for naked video calls”.
Uttar Pradesh Cyber Crime SP, Triveni Singh told IANS: “Maximum crime in today’s cyber world is related to nude photographs which are transformed from video calls. You answer a video call and the scammers take screenshots and turn them into nudes which are then used for blackmail.
He said the maximum such cases were being reported today in Uttar Pradesh.
“I’m sure there are many more cases that go unreported due to social stigma,” he said.
When asked how to verify the threat, Singh said, “I would advise people not to answer unknown calls. You can ask your friends to message you before calling so you know where the call is coming from.
He warned against making and receiving video calls that allow the scammer to take screenshots of the victim and then process the images used to extort money.
Another new way to scam people is “buy and sell sites”.
Triveni Singh, who is Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) from EC-Council USA and has completed a Certificate Course in Digital Transformation from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad and also a Certificate Course in forensic accounting and Fraud Examination from West Virginia University (USA), said that the goods are offered at lucrative prices to tempt buyers and the minute you scan the QR code, you lose your money.
“Recently we discovered that instant loan offers are another way to scam people. The offers come with ridiculously low interest rates and as soon as a person clicks on the links they get scammed and lose money in his account,” he said.
Another increasingly popular form of scam is messages informing the consumer that they will face a power outage due to unpaid bills.
Ashutosh Sinha, a businessman, recently received such a message.
He said: ‘I thought my staff might not have paid the bill by the due date so I clicked on the link and was directed to a form which I filled in. The form asked for my electric bill number and debit card information which I gave without even an iota of suspicion. A few minutes later, I received a message from my bank informing me that Rs 75,555 had been deducted from my account.
Sinha filed a complaint but the number no longer existed and the call was traced back to Odisha.
Another police official, who handles cybercrime cases, said scammers usually bounce off calls from different states, making it extremely difficult to identify them.
When asked how people can avoid getting scammed, Triveni Singh said not answering unknown calls, unidentified video calls and emails is the only way to avoid getting scammed.
“We raise people’s awareness of the issue of cybercrime. People use the phone but don’t realize how they can be fooled by it. Chinese apps also make a person vulnerable to being duped,” he said.
He added that police personnel stationed in the cyber cell receive advanced training in the use of technology and tool training is also given priority.