Fraud Alert: Insurance Maturity Bonus; Pay by QR Code Scam
The rapid spread of the internet and technological advances have forced everyone to adopt digital ways of life. While this has made life easy for people, those who have failed to acquire the skill to navigate the digital world safely are easy victims of two well-defined factors: greed and fear. A senior citizen was promised a huge bonus on the maturity of his insurance policy and lost almost Rs90 lakh to a fraudster. New-age criminals are increasingly using call centres to dupe people under the pretext of providing technical help and seeking payment via QR codes. 
 
Insurance Maturity Bonus Fraud
 
This fraud is not new. It has been in existence for several years and, in fact, incidents of fraud have reduced with increased awareness among people. And yet, there, a Delhi-based senior citizen was duped for Rs90 lakh only recently, indicating that people are not being careful. 
 
The news agency, IANS reports that a 32-year-old man has been arrested for cheating an 82-year-retired professor in the national capital on the pretext of offering a huge bonus on the maturity of insurance policies. 
 
The accused, identified as Virender Sahni, is said to be a 'notorious and sharp cyber fraudster' with vast knowledge of fund transfer through online banking and draining money out of victims' accounts without leaving a trail, says the report. 
 
In 2018, Mr Sahni contacted the senior citizen over the phone, impersonating a deputy general manager (DGM) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). He told the victim that his insurance policies had come up for maturity and he could receive Rs90 lakh as a bonus. Mr Sahni told the retired professor to pay Rs1.50 lakh as a processing fee to claim the maturity bonus. 
 
Once the professor was hooked, Mr Sahni kept asking for more money under the pretext of other bonuses, fixed returns, maturity returns, and health insurance for the whole family. After paying Rs90 lakh for the insurance maturity bonus and not receiving a single penny, the senior citizen realised that he had fallen into a trap. He filed a complaint based on which Delhi police arrested Mr Sahni. 
 
Moneylife has reported about fraudulent insurance policies that were sold to customers over phones. The cheaters gave offers ranging from bonus offer by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDA), interest-free loan from Reliance Capital, Airtel mobile tower rent and call to surrender ULIP without loss, to name a few. (Read: Life insurance fraud continues with impunity)
 
Remember, nobody provides huge bonuses or money on insurance policies over the phone. Even if you assume that it is true, better call your insurance company and get it clarified.
 
Pay by QR Code Scam
 
Quick response (QR) codes are capable of storing lots of data. When scanned, the QR code allows the user to access information instantly or perform pre-defined tasks. No wonder, fraudsters are also lured toward the QR codes. They are embedding malicious URLs (uniform resource locators) for malware that would extract data on the device or direct users to a phishing site to get personal information. You would have seen the QR codes at many places, mostly at shops, which the shopkeeper uses to accept payment from buyers. 
 
However, the same method is used by some criminals working in a call centre to dupe many people. According to a report from Times of India, by projecting themselves as online supporters of a multinational technology corporation, a gang collected more than Rs1 crore from victims. 
 
The Uttarakhand special task force (STF) told the newspaper that the gang duped people on the pretext of providing technical assistance by making them pay through QR codes. The STF managed to nab 14 members of the gang and recovered Rs1.26 crore from the call centre, which functioned from a building in the New Road area near MKP Chowk in Dehradun, the report says.
 
This raises the question if QR codes are safe. Basically, these codes are developed for a quick response; hence, security may not have considered this. Also, many users know that after scanning the QR code, a URL will be opened, or some payment transaction can be initiated. However, many are unaware of other actions that can be performed using QR codes. 
 
According to Kaspersky Lab, unsuspecting users who scan the code are taken to a malicious web page which could host an exploit kit, leading to device compromise or a spoofed login page to steal user credentials. "Some websites do drive-by downloads, so simply visiting the site can initiate a malicious software download. Mobile devices generally tend to be less secure than computers or laptops. Since QR codes are used on mobile devices, this increases the potential risks," the security software provider says.
 
While QR codes cannot be hacked, fraudsters can create malicious QR code to dupe people. This also means do not scan QR codes provided by an unknown person or entity. 
 
No 'Lovely-Dovely' Dating
 
A Hyderabad businessman's desire to go on a date with an anonymous woman cost him a bomb. Exploring an unsolicited message from dating site 'Lovely-Dovely', the 35-year-old ended in a financial loss of Rs3.30 lakh. 
 
According to a report from Times of India, the businessman received a message from the dating site while checking his Facebook account. When he clicked on the link, a person started chatting with him on WhatsApp, who told the businessman to pay Rs4,500 for registration. Later, the person asked to pay Rs25,000 for profile matching and sharing photos of girls. 
 
Under the pretext of one or other 'service', the fraudsters kept extracting money from the businessman. In fact, they collected money for goods and service tax (GST), income tax (I-T) and other taxes under the pretext of refunding money. When the businessman realised he had paid Rs3.30 lakh to the fraudster, he stopped paying and demanded a refund. The fraudster then became inaccessible. 
 
An official from the cybercrime branch told the newspaper that "in most dating frauds, the victims will be chatting with the accused for days together since they blindly believe the unknown persons assuming that they will get a girl to date. In most cases, victims must have already transferred the money."
 
So, the next time you receive any such message, immediately delete it. 
 
If You Are a Victim of Cyberfraud
 
Do report cyber crimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal http://cybercrime.gov.in or call on 1930, the toll-free helpline number. You can also send messages to the National Cyber Crime Reporting agency on social media through their handles @Cyberdost (Twitter), CyberDostI4C (Facebook), cyberdostl4C (Instagram), and cyberdosti4c (Telegram).
 
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