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Phishing Scam In India: Fake Sexual Offense Accusations

Indian finance ministry warns of phishing emails with fake allegations and official logos

by Krishna Murthy July 5, 2024

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The Indian government has issued a high alert to the public over several fake and fraudulent emails that have been circulated by fraudsters to defraud many people. A phishing scam is currently being undertaken in India, warned a statement by the country’s finance ministry.

According to the ministry, fraudsters are sending emails that contain a letter as an attachment which makes allegations of child pornography, pedophilia, cyber pornography, sexually explicit exhibit, grooming etc. levelled against the receivers of the said e-mails.

Beware of Phishing Scam: Indian Govt Alerts Citizens

The letter in circulation bears the names and signatures of and seals of various authorities, that accuse the recipient of sexual offences. The names of high-profile authorities mentioned in the letter include Sandeep Khirwar, ADG, Cyber Crime and Economic Offence, Delhi Police Headquarters, Delhi and that of Anupam Prakash, Joint Secretary ( Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act), Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB), together with stamps and logos of CEIB, Intelligence Bureau and Cyber Cell, Delhi.

Source: Ministry of Finance, India

Sharing an attachment of the email, the ministry said, “The fraudsters have used different e-mail addresses for sending the aforementioned fake e-mails with attachment. Police authorities have been alerted for taking necessary action in the matter.”

In the attachment, the fake email makes a reference to section 14 of the POCSO Act 2012, Section 292, Section 67A and Section 67B of the IT Act 2000. The letter asks the recipient to respond to the letter and “provide justification for further review” or sanctions may be imposed within 24 hours.

The Government has asked citizens not to respond to such emails and report such cases to the nearest police station/cyber police station.

“Receiver of any such email should be aware about this fraudulent attempt. It is informed to the general public that any such e-mails with the attachment should not be responded to and such cases may be reported to the nearest police station/cyber police station,” the communication said.

India Third on List Globally for Reported Phishing Scams: Report

According to a cybersecurity report  prepared by Zscaler, India ranked third leading country worldwide for the number of phishing attempts encountered in 2023. The reports says that about 79.1 1 million attempts of phishing were recorded.

A United Nations Ad Hoc Committee discussing cybercrime, called for specific attention to be given to the problem of phishing, calling it the “predominant cybercrime globally”.

To tackle the problem of phishing, India proposed using a ‘24×7 global communication channel’ between countries. According to this report by The Economic Times, India’s proposal felt that the current measures against cybercrime were “inadequate.” To tackle the problem, the country proposed facilitating information exchange between Law Enforcement Agencies between countries to “swiftly render phishing links inaccessible and identify the abused IT resources and the malicious actor.”

How to Protect Yourself Against Phishing Scams?

With the right knowledge and tools, you can arm yourself against these phishing attacks. Here are a few of the practical steps you can take to safeguard your digital identity and assets.

  • Get Educated: Learn how phishing works and common tricks attackers use.
  • Think Before You Click: Don’t rush! Check email addresses and hover over links to see real URLs before clicking. Verify suspicious emails with the sender through a trusted channel.
  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Even if your password is stolen, MFA adds an extra step (like a code to your phone) to block unauthorized access.
  • Update Software Regularly: Outdated software has security holes. Update your operating system, web browser, and antivirus software to patch vulnerabilities. Consider real-time antivirus scanning for extra protection.
  • Trust Your Gut: If something feels off, it probably is! Don’t let pressure or fear cloud your judgment. Verify everything before sharing sensitive information or making financial transactions.
  • Report Phishing Attempts: Help protect others. Report suspicious emails to your email provider, bank, or cybersecurity agencies.

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