A Message from the Boss: How Online Fraudsters Reach Their Targets | Gurgaon News
The number was unknown, but not the displayed image. The Executive Engineer of Gurgaon Municipality double-checked. Yes, that was the picture of his boss, City Commissioner Mukesh Kumar Ahuja. The number, he thought, was personal to the senior official.
Just when Singh was about to buy the top-up cards, he thought it imperative to check with Ahuja’s personal assistant if the City Commissioner indeed needed the money. What seemed abnormal to him was the insistence on Google Play cards and not on the direct transfer of money to a bank account.
It was then that the veil was lifted on the scam. Ahuja’s assistant confirmed that the WhatsApp number was not that of the municipal commissioner. Just to be sure, Singh called Ahuja to ask if he had indeed sent the message. His boss was shocked, too.
“We had all heard of online fraud. None of us could imagine that fraudsters could now use this technique,” Singh told TOI.
The executive engineer later learned that six of his colleagues had received the same message. Although a little hesitant to transfer the money instantly, no one thought it could be a scam.
“I should have obliged to the message in some time. But luckily I learned of the fraud from Singh and the other colleagues,” another MCG official said, asking not to be identified.
In their latest modus operandi, the fraudsters impersonated senior government officials and sent WhatsApp messages asking for urgent monetary favors from their junior colleagues.
Since the images displayed are of senior officials, their juniors have little reason to sense anything is wrong.
“How many junior colleagues will question their boss’s intention?” Phone numbers may be unknown. But most think it’s the boss’s personal number, not the one shared among office workers. The moment they realize it is a fraud, they transfer the money or buy gift cards as instructed,” said Bijender Singh, the Cyber Police Station SHO.
In most cases, gangs do not ask for a direct cash transfer. Instead, they strike up a conversation first and then request money through Amazon or Google Play gift cards.
A similar technique, he said, is also being adopted to target government officials in UP and Chandigarh. “They have access to the photos and contacts of the person they intend to target. In most cases, it is a senior official whom his junior colleagues will not suspect. Similar frauds are also being investigated by UP and Chandigarh Police,” the SHO added.
Recently, the Chandigarh Police Chief took to social media to send out an alert that a similar scam was going on in his name. “I ask you all to please report this scammer who is using my name and DP, asking for an Amazon gift card. Please report to [email protected],” Praveer Ranjan tweeted on May 28.
Police in Gurgaon have joined their counterparts in UP and Chandigarh to hunt down the fraudsters. They think the same gang orchestrated the cybercrimes in different cities.
In the case of the MCG commissioner, police said they tracked down the WhatsApp number and found it was registered to a UP day laborer who had never typed a message in his entire life.
“This is interesting. Someone else is using WhatsApp on this number. We have sent his phone to the forensic lab for further investigation. We are trying to trace the gang members. We hope to have results soon” , SHO Singh said.