Fraud Alert: How Not To Become a Victim of the Courier or Delivery Scams
Fraud originating from the infamous scam clusters such as Jamtara, Indore, or Mewat regions of India is thriving, but what is more worrisome is the use of sophisticated tools and authentic-looking 'sets' by criminals. Most new-age criminals operate as a gang, with each member handling specific, assigned tasks, including posing as a police inspector or the chief of a cybercrime cell! Since most of us are unaware of how government departments work, particularly investigation and enforcement agencies, it is easy to victimise people by building a fake scenario and holding out the threat of an arrest. 
 
In a recent case, a youngster from Bengaluru was duped of over Rs13 lakh on the claim that he sent a parcel to Taiwan carrying illegal items like passports and drugs. There have been many media reports about such scams specifically targeting people who have just returned from abroad. The youngster, Sanjay (name changed), was subjected to the most deadly variation of this scam. A fake scenario of a police station, complete with wireless sets, multiple phones and employees, was created and he was called on a Skype call to convince him that it was a genuine call. The bottom line is that he was made to transfer money from his bank account and that of his wife. Before going into details of the case and how to avoid becoming a victim, let us see what exactly is a courier or delivery scam.
 
A courier scam, also known as a delivery scam or parcel scam, is one where scammers attempt to deceive individuals into handing over money or personal information by posing as a courier or delivery service. The scam usually starts with a phone call, email, or text message claiming to be from a reputable courier or delivery company. The message informs the victim that they have an important package, document, or valuable item that needs to be delivered.
 
In the usual delivery scam, scammers inform the victim that there is a problem with the delivery of the parcel and request payment such as delivery fee, customs duty, taxes, or other charges to get it released. They may use various excuses to make the request sound legitimate, such as incorrect address, missing paperwork, or unpaid fees. It usually ends if you say that you do not want the parcel and it can be returned to the sender or that you don't care what is done with it. 
 
Sanjay was a victim of a far more sophisticated and multi-layered fraud in the name of the parcel. It started when he received a call from 'FedEx' informing him that his parcel was withheld by the customs department as it contained illegal items like passports and drugs. When he denied sending any parcel, they said it could be a case of misuse of his name, phone number, and Aadhaar by criminals. Since he was in Bengaluru, they offered to connect him with the Mumbai cybercrime cell via Skype. They had created a convincing background of a police station.
 
The fraudsters just did not allow him time to think and, despite his initial resistance and denial of their claims, he fell into the trap. "The fraudsters sent me two letters via Skype, along with the identification (ID) of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) for cybercrime that they impersonated," he says. It was "all so authentic - they had walkie-talkies ringing in the background, police inspectors (PIs) and sub-inspectors (PSIs) walking and talking. They got me with all that," he explains regretfully.
 
It is important to remember that scamsters hope to rattle you and prevent you from thinking calmly and clearly by creating a sense of urgency or imminent action such as an arrest. This is done to get victims to provide information or transfer money in the hope of closing the issue with minimal damage. 
 
During the call, the ostensible 'PSI' from the Mumbai cybercrime cell asked Sanjay to share his Aadhaar so that it could be checked for any misuse. He even used the name of a prominent politician from Maharashtra who was behind bars for money laundering and corruption. The 'PSI' told Sanjay it was a serious matter and he could be imprisoned. He then shared a letter from the central bureau of investigation (CBI). 
 
Later, someone posing and impersonating a DCP pretended to interrogate Sanjay for three hours! When I checked, the real IPS officer, who was impersonated, worked as DCP of the Mumbai cyber cell till May 2023. At present, his posting is at a higher level, and he hardly gets any time to even respond to calls or messages, say his former colleagues.
 
The fake DCP told Sanjay that his financials would be verified and shared a letter from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). He was asked to transfer 92% of his bank balance to RBI's financial department for verification. The fraudsters told him to keep the Skype call on and visit the bank to make the transfer to a current account that they said 'is used by RBI to verify finances'. He transferred over Rs9 lakh, which the 'DCP' on the Skype call said would be credited to his account as soon as possible.
 
Sanjay was asked to report every hour on Skype since he 'is a suspect' and report the following day for final verification. "He (the Skype DCP) also warned me not to disclose anything with anyone and also avoid any Google searches or avoid taking calls from any unknown numbers."
 
The next morning, Sanjay was asked to share information about his wife's bank accounts and fixed deposits (FDs) and then transfer some money for 'financial verification'. He transferred over Rs4 lakh from his wife's account. 
 
When the cybercriminals asked Sanjay to break the FDs of his wife and transfer that money for 'financial verification', he became suspicious and stopped taking calls on Skype. He then started receiving phone calls from numbers that were identified as the numbers of the joint police commission (JtCP), and a cyber police cell on TrueCaller. 
 
He says, "One of the numbers from which we were called by them when they started threatening (after we had realised what had happened) is actually the helpline number displayed on the Mumbai cyber crime website and their X handle. Also, the other landline numbers of Mumbai cyber police that I tried to contact, not a single one could be reached (the call just did not go through). At that time, I had no idea what was happening, but it seemed later like they had hacked it. To say the least, it was frightening to no end. I have been wondering if they could have had some insider's help."
 
"The person also started threatening us to pay the remaining money; otherwise, he would send police to arrest me and freeze all our accounts. That is when we became certain that we had been cheated. Then we have started the complaint process," Sanjay says. 
 
Sanjay followed all due processes for filing the complaint and may receive his money back.
 
To recap, it started with a call from FedEx, then the Mumbai cyber crime cell, the Mumbai crime branch, CBI, DCP of Mumbai cybercrime, and finally, RBI and its financial department. Most people would miss all the red flags in this fake scenario created to dupe Sanjay. For example, a courier company, however big, cannot have the Mumbai cybercrime cell readily available for a call via Skype. Also, when the 'parcel' was blocked by customs, where was the scope for CBI and a general RBI account for verification of financials – but again, a person who is rattled does not think clearly.
 
According to Mahesh Athavale, lawyer and former assistant commissioner of police (ACP) who has worked on economic offences, all agencies of the Union government contact other departments, including local police, through their designated nodal officer. "The case is then assigned to an officer, who sends a letter or email, if the email ID is available, to the concerned person, asking him to be present in the particular police station on so-and-so date and time."
 
"Most enforcement agencies do not use Skype or video calls to connect with any accused or victim. They may use WhatsApp calls, but generally, they do not make any video calls. Summons may be sent through WhatsApp to call the person to the police station," Mr Athavale adds. 
 
So, how can one save oneself from becoming a victim of a courier scam? Being alert and cautious is one, for sure. 
 
You need to verify the source from where the communication is initiated. Be sceptical of unsolicited communication from delivery companies. If you receive a message about a package or delivery that you were not expecting or did not send, verify the legitimacy of the communication by contacting the courier company directly using official contact information. Avoid using the contact information provided in the message.
 
Be cautious if you receive such a call from a courier company about the parcel being held by the 'customs'. In such a case, the customs department would contact you through the official channel and not the 'courier' connecting to the cybercrime cell of the police department. The customs department works under the Union government, while the police work under the state government. 
 
Never share personal information, financial details, or payment information over the phone through unsolicited messages or video calls.
 
If you are told to pay additional fees for a package, double-check with the courier company to confirm the legitimacy of the request. Legitimate companies typically will not ask for additional payments in this manner.
 
Scammers use urgency to pressure victims into quick decisions. Relax and take your own time to verify the information. Do consult with family or friends if needed.
 
Remember that scammers are constantly adapting their tactics, so staying informed and cautious is crucial in protecting yourself from various types of scams, including courier scams.
 
How To Report Cyber Fraud?
 
Do report cyber crimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal http://cybercrime.gov.in or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c). 
 
 
If the fraud is related to your bank account, you need to immediately send an email to the official email ID of your branch (you can find it on the bank's website or your passbook) with a copy to the bank's customer care. Even if you have called the official number for customer care, you must still send an email describing your conversation with the bank executive, along with the time, date, and duration of the call. This will be helpful if you face a liability issue with the bank.
Comments
iaminprabhu
6 months ago
Common people getting SCARED of POLICE or ED, CBI is the 1st psychological barrier which is TESTED BY Scamsters!

NO ONE needs to share ANY INFO. ONLINE under any circumstances! TAKE other Family or Friends help even if you have to go to any nearest POLICE STATION!

Police & Govt. is always there to HELP common citizens
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