EV industry is the new target of phishing campaigns

Scammers found using Google Ads to promote phishing websites, thus tricking visitors into paying money as booking fee for buying vehicles or security deposit for dealerships

Published - March 02, 2022 06:27 pm IST - KOCHI

Fraudsters engaged in phishing campaigns seem to be increasingly targeting the electric vehicle industry, as per an investigation conducted by CloudSEK, a global AI-driven digital risk management enterprise, last year.

The study found a decline in phishing campaigns targeting banking, finance and fintech sectors coinciding with a corresponding rise in similar campaigns targeting the e-vehicle industry, giving the impression that the same threat groups were probably involved. The buzz around the industry and increased awareness about financial scams and sterner criminal investigations may have forced the shift, according to the study, which was released on Tuesday night.

“Our threat research team has found that unsuspecting victims, mostly looking for e-vehicle dealership, lost not less than ₹8 crore, which is probably just a part of it. The scammers adopted a rather simple two-step process whereby they created phishing websites and then used Google Ads to promote them, tricking visitors into paying money either as booking fee for buying a vehicle or security deposit for a dealership. We found nearly 200 phishing sites and considering an average of 100-200 registrations, each of those websites would have cheated people anywhere between ₹2 lakh and ₹4 lakh,” said Rahul Sasi, founder, CloudSEK.

Many popular EV brands have been targeted to defraud people by registering fake domains with URLs designed to look like their authentic websites. Social media pages have also been created to lure victims searching for electric vehicles into these fake sites. The fraudsters have left e-vehicle companies with loss of business and credibility crisis, not to mention the legal troubles created in its wake.

Identifying phishing websites and taking them down at the earliest remain the quickest way to mitigate the threat, though they may always get replaced by more such sites. Reporting the phishing campaign to the cyber cell may also help to bust groups behind it. Running aggressive awareness campaigns about fraud may ensure that fewer people fall prey to fraud.

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