While these mails are exceedingly common, there are still a huge number of people who are taken in by them and tricked into handing over large sums of money — or personal information — to unknown third parties.
Metrolife speaks to a few cyber-crime experts as well as people who’ve had experience with internet theft to find out more.
M G Kumar, a cyber-crime advocate, lists some of the common ways in which people get scammed on the internet. “One normal attempt is when cyber criminals send an e-mail saying they represent a big company in some foreign country, and are looking to hire an agent in India; if the recipient pays a certain sum, he or she is promised the position,” he says. “Other fraudulent mails include those that claim the recipient has won a lottery, or that the sender requires money for medical treatment,” he explains.
He also believes that people who list their date of birth on social networking sites are vulnerable to cyber theft, since if someone manages to get their credit card number, that’s all the additional information they’d need to access their bank account.
Balraj, a content writer, says that he once received such an e-mail, and narrowly avoided being scammed. “An e-mail was sent to me from my friend’s address. It had a website link to a Chinese firm offering some phones at a very cheap rate. I wrote to them, and they told me that I would have to send across the money first, and then they would ship it,” he recollects.
He admits that he was on the verge of sending across the cash when he decided to double-check the link first.
“I asked my friend, whose e-mail address it was sent from, about it. That’s when I realised it was a fake and I didn’t pay,” he explains. Beena Pillai, a lawyer who deals with cyber-crime, says that she has been approached by two or three clients who had got scammed in this manner.
“One of them got a mail from Nigeria claiming he’d won a crore in a lottery. He was asked to pay a couple of lakhs to receive this amount, which he did,” she narrates. After her client realised his mistake, he approached her for legal advice, but she claims that rectifying such a problem is near impossible.
“We wanted to file a case, but for this we needed the police to file a report first. And coordinating with the police is very difficult. Action is only taken if the complainant is willing to pay a lot of money,” she says regretfully.
Balraj feels that most people who use their common sense can avoid being scammed on the internet. “If a mail has been shot forward to many people, chances are it’s fake. People shouldn’t get carried away by these mails,” he says.