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Beware of the fake ‘FedEx courier’ call. It’s the latest cyber scam  

In 2023 alone, Bengaluru Police have registered 163 such cases, 48 of them in the South-East division alone.
Last Updated : 24 August 2023, 19:10 IST
Last Updated : 24 August 2023, 19:10 IST

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Technology has impacted every aspect of our lives, with many of our chores being just a click away. It has also become the cornerstone of criminality where internet and smart gadgets are used to outsmart the human mind and rob people over a phone call. The ubiquitous digital connectivity is a catalyst for the variety of crimes possible as well as a multiplier of number of crimes, given the ease with which it can be done.

As the Silicon Valley of the East, Bengaluru has a large young and floating population who are both tech savvy and avid gadget users. This makes many of them vulnerable, while equipping many others to exploit this situation to their advantage, giving rise to an increasing number of cybercrimes using innovative ways to con the gullible.

Strategies to exploit the vulnerability of people, characterised by the manipulation of their emotions by creating a false sense of urgency and a veil of trust, are the hallmarks of the newest crimes. The situation calls for cyber awareness and prevention measures.

While the realm of cybercrime encompasses a spectrum of offences, the recent surge of fake ‘FedEx courier’ scams has exposed the deftness of the criminals. ‘FedEx courier’ scams leverage the credibility of an established courier brand to deceive individuals. The scammer capitalises on the inherent trust associated with the company, leaving unsuspecting victims entrapped in a web of deceit. By impersonating FedEx staff and creating a façade of urgency, these criminals exploit emotions ranging from fear to immediate gratification.

The sophistication of these scams is reflected in their multi-pronged approach. From deceptive phone calls to falsified documents, the criminals craft a narrative that intertwines victims’ personal information, legal concerns, and financial stakes. As the call recipients are informed about packages supposedly linked to their Aadhaar card—the fear of potential legal consequences becomes the driving force for compliance. The tactics bank on fear and urgency clouding rational judgement and making victims divulge sensitive information or transfer money. The illusion of authority further compounds the issue, as scammers impersonate police officers to legitimise their demands.

These scams exploit the very nature of human behaviour, relying on emotional reactions rather than rational responses. They prey on human behaviour rather than technical vulnerabilities. By combining technological tools with psychological manipulation, they orchestrate attacks that are complex and devastatingly effective.

The modus operandi

The ‘FedEx courier’ fraudsters impersonate FedEx employees and law enforcement officials. The scammers involved in the fake call operation prey on people’s anxieties and fears. They employ Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems that convincingly simulate automated calls from FedEx and fake customs and Mumbai police officials. The callers weave a tale of a stuck consignment being thoroughly checked at the Mumbai airport customs, leading to the discovery of narcotics hidden among the items. To avoid legal troubles, they coerce their victims into paying a hefty ‘fine’ ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

In 2023 alone, Bengaluru Police have registered 163 such cases, 48 of them in the South-East division alone. The total money lost is more than Rs 5 crore. The scam starts with a victim receiving a call from a number claiming to be from FedEx ‘customer service.’ The scammers inform the victims that a package, allegedly linked to their Aadhaar number, has been intercepted due to the presence of illegal items. Despite the victim not having sent any packages or expecting to receive one, the scammers assert that the package had been dispatched from Mumbai. This creates fear in the victim’s mind.

To intensify the pressure, the victim is informed that their call would be transferred to the Mumbai Police Cyber Cell, supposedly due to the illegal items in the package. This move is aimed at inducing a sense of impending legal trouble. Following the initial call, victims receive a Skype call from an individual dressed as a police officer. This fake officer requests sensitive information, such as the victim’s Aadhaar and PAN card details. The scam takes a sinister turn as the victim is informed that multiple bank accounts are linked to their Aadhaar number and these accounts are involved in money-laundering activities. This claim amplifies the sense of urgency and impending legal trouble.

To ‘verify’ account details and avoid legal consequences, the fraudster instructs the victim to transfer a sum of money. The scammer promises a swift refund within 15 minutes. If the victim shows hesitation, the fraudster promptly sends a sample acknowledgement receipt that the victim would supposedly receive after transferring the money. This fabricated receipt aims to alleviate any doubt the victim might have.

Fighting the fraud

In combating the ‘FedEx courier’ fraud, awareness and prevention are necessary and the only way out. Educating potential victims about the scam’s tactics and warning signs is crucial. Here are some measures:

FedEx verification: Always verify the status of any package directly on the official FedEx website. Avoid clicking on links received via SMS or email or WhatsApp, as scammers often use these avenues to manipulate victims.

Never share sensitive info: Under no circumstances should individuals share their UPI PIN, UPI ID, or any other bank details with strangers, especially over the phone.

End call: If a call raises suspicions, individuals should end the call immediately without engaging further. Scammers can employ psychological tactics to manipulate emotions and decision-making.

Educate: Elderly people and vulnerable individuals are often more susceptible to such scams. Encourage family members and friends to educate their elders and neighbours about these frauds.

Report immediately: If you suspect you have fallen victim to such a scam, contact emergency services by dialling 112 or 1930. Alternatively, visit your nearest Cyber Crime Police Station to lodge a formal complaint.

(The writer is Deputy Commissioner of Police, South-East division, Bengaluru. Views are personal)

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Published 24 August 2023, 19:10 IST

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