Beware the SMS on I-T refunds!

Innocuous messages used to extract personal data.

Cyber crime agencies are investigating a new pan-India, cyber crime racket, involving a fraudulent message purportedly from the Income-Tax Department. Officials said the seemingly innocuous message has the potential to trigger a host of cyber crimes, including data theft and banking frauds.

According to cyber crime officials, the racket was first discovered roughly a month ago, as the first deadline for filing IT returns was nearing, when people started getting text messages, supposedly from the IT department. The message tells the targets that their “income tax refund” has been approved and includes a random bank account number, and ends by saying that if the account number mentioned is incorrect, the target should visit the link in the message and “update their bank account details”.

“As the account number is obviously wrong, the target ends up clicking on the link, which takes him to a web page similar to the I-T Department's official website. The targets are then instructed to enter their log in id and password, which can be created on the I-T department's website. If the targets have actually created an online account with the I-T department, which any tax payer can do, they further fall for the scam. The next step is to enter their actual bank account details,” Superintendent of Police, Maharashtra Cyber Crime, Balsing Rajput said.

Mr Rajput added that just entering these details opens up a wide range of possibilities for fraudsters. The fraudsters get the target’s login ID and password for the I-T department website, through which they can divert the I-T refund to their own accounts, with the targets’ knowledge. They can also change the target’s cell phone number in the I-T department's records, so that they do not receive text message notifications about the changes, officials said.

“Using the same details, fraudsters can call up unsuspecting citizens posing as I-T officials and cheat them out of money by convincing them that there have been 'irregularities' in their I-T returns and they need to pay fines. This scam does not even need to be perpetrated by the original scamsters. They can simply sell the data in bulk to gangs involved in such activities, which happens quite often on the dark net. Last year, a similar scam was busted by the Thane police, where Indians accused were cheating citizens of the U.S. by posing as officials of the Internal Revenue Service,” Mr Rajput said.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:30:07 AM |

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