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Virtual jail, fake officers and fraud in cyber world

The increasing trend of digital technology has brought revolutionary changes in the society. Technology is becoming more integrated in everyday life. The society of any nation appears to be incapable in progressing without digitalization. Although society has benefitted with the advent of digital technology, along with it many challenges are increasing day by day in […]

The increasing trend of digital technology has brought revolutionary changes in the society. Technology is becoming more integrated in everyday life. The society of any nation appears to be incapable in progressing without digitalization. Although society has benefitted with the advent of digital technology, along with it many challenges are increasing day by day in the field of cyber security. Cybercrime poses threat to mankind and institutions in the modern digital age. Cyber criminals always adopt new tricks to violate cyber security, whether it is identity theft, cyber bullying or phishing attacks etc. According to a recent report released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 11lakh cases were registered under online financial fraud with citizens. In view of this, a new type of cyber crime has emerged in recent days, which has been named as, “Digital Arrest”. Digital arrest is a cyber crime in which a person’s own residence becomes a battlefield for him and his or her privacy remains at risk. It is the matter of concern that most of the tech-savvy people are becoming victims of cyber crimes like digital arrest. The concern that arises in this situation is, “what is this digital arrest where people lose their money.”

Digital Arrest

In the rapidly evolving crime scenario in the cyber world, the concept of digital arrest has emerged as a new threat.  In this type of crime, fraudsters trick the victim by calling them and pretending to be a law enforcement officer in order to rob him or her. The victim is terrified by saying that his or her bank account, SIM card, Aadhaar card or ATM card etc. has been used illegally. The main component of digital arrest is fear; cyber criminal uses new tricks to frighten their target. There are numerous tricks like misuse of SIM in your name, drugs trafficking organization, mishandling of your Aadhaar card, money laundering, your mobile number was being used in terrorist conversion etc. Offenders may often create a full structure, like police station to commit this type of crime. Initially, the victim is intimidated and threatened through an audio call, by giving details of his or her Aadhar card, SIM card and PAN card etc. For example, the victim is informed that his Aadhaar card has been used in drug smuggling. In this way, the criminals trap the victim by claiming that he or she is involved in some suspicious activity and then through a video call, the victim is asked to remain under their surveillance. In a tactful manner, the criminals try to obtained victim’s personal information, profession, bank account details, investment details and other facts. Victims pay money to avoid legal action and penalties. In this entire scam criminals utilize psychological manipulation to scared the victim, his or her involvement in illegal activities, threaten and take money. Recently, many cases of digital arrest have come to light.

Case-1

In a case, a female IT engineer from Noida became a victim of digital arrest. A few days ago the woman received a call from an unknown number claiming to be from a courier service. The lady is informed that one of her courier going from Mumbai to Taiwan has been stopped by the customs officials at the airport because drugs and four passports along with incriminating material have been found in it. After this, to scare the woman, the cyber criminals said that the call is being transferred to the police officer. Fraudsters make video call to woman to assure her that he is a police officer. The alleged police officer threatened the woman to put in the jail by citing objectionable items in the courier of her name. The criminals asked for money as collateral to save the woman. The fraudsters threatened the woman that if she disconnected the call without transferring money, her family members would also have to go to jail. The woman gave the demanded amount to the fraudsters for her protection.

Case-2

A Professor at a central university was spared from being a victim of fraud because he was aware of similar instances. A voice call alerts the university professor that one of his packages is headed for Indonesia. The parcel contains passport and some other items. Apart from this, some suspicious material has also been found in the parcel and your parcel has been caught by the Custom Officer at Delhi Airport. Subsequently, the cybercriminals attempted to deceive him by pretending that their call was being routed to Delhi Police, and a Delhi Police constable began speaking on the other end. The cyber criminal asks him to join a video call, on which the professor became alert. When the professor put pressure on that policeman to talk with higher authorities, he became reluctant to talk. At that moment, he realized that an attempt was being made to cheat him through digital arrest. The hackers didn’t make any contact after this. Because he was aware about online financial fraud, the professor in this case was spared from becoming a victim of cyber fraud.
In view of the increasing cases of digital arrest, we all need to be alert and adopt preventive measures. Remain vigilant against cybercrime and recognize emerging fraud techniques. In general, while calling someone, police officers or representatives of any other government agency do not threaten them. If someone calls you and makes false accusations against you, forward this information to your family members. Without holding back, report such calls to the authorities. And do not share your personal details. The national hotline for cybercrime is 1930; one can report instances of cyber fraud there. Education institutions and law enforcement agencies can work together to spread awareness of cyber security precautions.

Prof. Manoj Kumar Saxena Head and Dean, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala

Nitika Sharma, ICSSR Doctoral Fellow, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala

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