Falling hook, line and sinker in a web of fraud

From job scams to identity theft and sextortion, cyber criminals are getting more audacious and coming up  with creative tactics to cheat people and outsmart police

Updated - February 10, 2023 12:43 pm IST

Published - February 10, 2023 08:02 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

Representational image

Representational image | Photo Credit: Reuters

Visakhapatnam, often referred to as the ‘City of Destiny’, is no stranger to cyber crime. In fact, it is leading the charts in terms of online offences in Andhra Pradesh, Commissioner of Police Ch.Srikanth had disclosed at a national seminar last June. 

The city had its first tryst with crime on the web when an Intermediate student fell into the trap of an online friendship club. After spending over ₹1 lakh, drawn from his father’s bank account, he realised that the girl on the other side of the screen was fake. Conned and helpless, he ended his life.

The incident took place about 15 years ago and and it was then that the police were introduced to the world of cyber crime. It took about six months to detect the perpetrators, who were arrested from New Delhi.

Ever since, cyber crime has grown at a phenomenal pace and beyond the imagination of the law enforcement agencies. More often than not, the fraudsters are at least a few paces ahead of the police and the men in khaki have a tough time controlling the sinister designs.

Wider network

If the police bust one modus operandi, newer and more refined methods of swindling people emerge. And the victim is not always your average Joe, who is tech-challenged. Today, even highly educated people are ensnared into the world of cyber crime. In fact, the pandemic period saw an upsurge in online offences when most people were working from home and spent a substantial part of their day on the computer. 

Recently, a software engineer working for a reputed MNC from home in Visakhapatnam, browsed through search engines, looking for part-time jobs.

With everything on the internet now linked to artificial intelligence, the moment one visits a site, their search data is smuggled and they become sitting ducks for criminals scouring the web to target people with tailored messages, said Commissioner of Police, Visakhapatnam, Ch. Srikanth.

In this case, the software engineer immediately received a message about a job opportunity and was asked to click on a link. The moment he did so, he was redirected to a window that appeared to be the website of a professional company.

To prove authenticity, a woman, claiming to be the task manager, came online. The site also displayed that there were 200 others like him already in the chat/ task room.

Initially, the task assigned to him was simple, and he was paid a small amount of ₹150 on its completion — the tasks are generally simple like rating a product or a resort. He was paid for a couple more tasks and once they were confident that the techie had been baited, they moved on to paid tasks, starting from ₹1,500 and going up to as high as ₹30,000.

But the biggest catch lay after that step. To get back the money invested, he was made to pay ₹8 lakh, in instalments, which at times also included coercion, said Cyber Crime Police Station inspector Bhavani Prasad.

This is just one type of fraud, also known as the part-time job or task fraud. In the past one year, the city police have detected about 77 such cases and the fraud committed under this modus operandi runs up to ₹2.41 crore.

The city police have listed about 24 types of cyber fraud. Apart from part-time job fraud, the most common ones are Google Search customer care numbers/ phishing, social media fraud, business franchise fraud, KYC update link fraud, bank call fraud and sextortion.

In the case of sextortion, both men and women are falling prey to this crime. There have been cases, where the victims have gone to the extent of ending their lives, said Mr. Srikanth.

In 2022, the city police recorded about 613 cases wherein people had been defrauded of nearly ₹16 crore, cumulatively.


The biggest challenge faced by the security forces is tracking the fraudsters. They make calls and send messages using VPNs and if at all they are tracked, they are found to be ‘missing’, since the details uploaded by them are fake. “It is like finding a needle in a haystack. And it requires a lot of manpower and time to track a single case as almost all of them are inter-state criminals,” said Mr. Bhavani Prasad.

Training for the police force is another key aspect as the fraudsters are technically updated.

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