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May 19, 2024
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New Scam Alert! Got A Friend’s WhatsApp Message From New Number For Money? This May Be A Fraud


Cyber Expert Anuj Agarwal said that information of people is easily accessible in the age of social media. (File photo: Getty)

Cyber Expert Anuj Agarwal said that information of people is easily accessible in the age of social media. (File photo: Getty)

Cyber experts advised people not to click on links tempting individuals with free subscriptions to some platform or big discounts on high pricing products

What would you do if your friend messages you on WhatsApp with a different number and asks you for money? You would obviously ask him why he or she has changed his/her number but some innocent people land in the trap of cyber criminals and give away their hard-earned money.

28-year-old Himanshu Rawat, who hails from Unnao, a district located around 60 km from Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow, found himself in a precarious situation on Tuesday when one of his friends informed him about a scamster trying to con people in his name.

Using Rawat’s display photo, the scamster sent messages to four of his friends from college. The scamster then asked them to give him phone numbers of other friends of Rawat to build a sense of trust. Two of Rawat’s friends gave contact numbers to the scamster but then he asked for money.

Narrating the sequence of events, Rawat said, “One of my friends, Shubham called me and told me that someone contacted him on WhatsApp in which he had put up my photo. So, my friend thought it was me who was messaging him from a different number. He (The fraudster) said that he has changed his phone. He then asked my friend to send him Rs 2000 on Gpay on this number. My friend suspected something fishy. So he asked him to give him his UPI ID. But UPI ID was of someone named Abhishek. Then my friend’s suspicion got confirmed that he is being scammed. So, he immediately called me on my number and narrated the entire incident.”

Then within a few minutes, another friend informed Rawat about a similar incident. “My friend Gaurav Singh told me that someone, who was using his photo on WhatsApp, contacted him and asked for phone numbers of 3 of my college friends. He then asked if Gaurav had Rs 2000. Gaurav was also suspicious so he asked the fraudster to call him. But he did not call him. Meanwhile, Shubham dropped screenshots of the entire conversation with the fraudster and narrated the entire incident on his friends’ WhatsApp group. Two other friends also got similar messages from the fraudster,” the 28-year-old said.

However, Rawat’s friends outsmarted the fraudster and did not fall in the trap.  Rawat then immediately put status on my social accounts about a fraudster impersonating him. He also dialed the 1930 toll-free number of the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India to report the fraud and later filed a complaint on National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Cybercriminals Gaining Access To People’s Smartphones

Sachhin Gajjaer, Founder of Cybersecurity firm Sattrix, said a new trend in phone hacking has emerged where cybercriminals are gaining unauthorized access of people’s smartphones.

Hackers often start by phishing for login credentials or exploiting vulnerabilities in the app or device through techniques such as malware, spyware, or SIM swapping. Once they gain control, they impersonate the victim by using their display picture (DP) and accessing their contacts. They then use the victim’s identity to send convincing messages to their friends and family, urgently requesting money or sensitive information. If you are faced with such a situation, it is essential that you remain calm and think clearly,” he said.

Cyber Expert Anuj Agarwal said that information of people is easily accessible in the age of social media. He also highlighted the increase in trends in which scamsters install malware in smartphones of victims to get their contact list. “In cases like this, people should not respond to new numbers. They should talk to the person on his old number to ensure if he or she is actually a friend,” he added.

Agarwal further advised people not to click on links tempting individuals with free subscriptions to some digital platform or big discounts on high pricing products. He said that people can report the fraud at cybercrime.gov.in, a portal launched the Ministry of Home Affairs to deal with cyber crimes.

Kumar Ritesh, Founder & CEO, CYFIRMA said data broker companies that collect and sell consumer data are oftentimes culpable as they either inadvertently or intentionally share phone numbers and contact lists with cybercriminals or other unauthorized parties. Data such as contact numbers can also be sold in underground marketplaces, and this makes tracking the source of the theft particularly difficult, he added.

Ritesh suggested investing in cybersecurity education and training programs to bring cybersecurity literacy to the masses.

How To Protect Yourself From Cyber Fraud

  • Exercise caution when sharing their contact details online
  • Always be cautious when receiving any calls, emails, text messages asking for private and sensitive information. Messages that urge you to click on links or download attachments are red flags
  • Make it a habit to regularly monitor your bank accounts, credit card statements, and other financial accounts for any unauthorized transactions or suspicious activity, and report any discrepancies to your banks immediately.
  • Use strong passwords, enable multi-factor authentication, use encryption and biometric authentication to protect sensitive data.

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