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Online scams are on the rise and you’re not safe

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By Khalid Mustafa

OE are aware of the growing number of scams, whether it is an SMS scam, a direct call scam, a video call scam, an email scam or a direct sextortion or any other means of seizing people’s money. The solutions to these problems are obvious, but we continue to remain oblivious.

The way we see an increase in these crimes is not the end but a beginning at J&K. Many of us have lost a lifetime of income and some have even lost our lives to these scams.

Being a victim of such scams can also lead to suicides when people face heavy loss and blackmail.

Scams are of different types and not all of them are technically sound to figure things out.

So what is a scam?

Scam simply means “fraud”, i.e. a dishonest or illegal scheme to seize money or even disrespect anyone. There are different scams depending on the scammers. Here are a few:

SMS scam – Almost everyone uses phones these days because it is the blessing of technology and we benefit from it. But the problem is when we get text messages in direct inbox about prizes and lottery, loan approvals, business investments, 5G sim card swap, work from home job vacancies, disconnecting electricity, sending credit cards, etc. The caller may say that you have been “selected” for an offer or that you have won the lottery. Do not respond to these and file a complaint in the event of a prolonged problem.

Video call scam – Sometimes we may receive a video call from a stranger through Messenger or WhatsApp depending on the target users of the scammers. They will pretend to be a girl posing naked and once you start watching, they will record everything and blackmail you for posting content on websites and threaten you to share the videos with your known contacts (family and friends as well).

Don’t answer it at all. Since there is shame associated with it, one might not even report it. One can even be blackmailed into paying huge sums of money. Many of your acquaintances may have already been victims without you knowing it.

If this happens to you, it is best to report it to the police immediately.

Email scam – Similar to SMS, you can receive emails from unknown email ids regarding lottery, opening free bank accounts, 0% interest finance, extended car warranties, job offers, etc. Please DO NOT RESPOND to these emails. These are fake emails and most of the time they are automatically visible in your scam folders.

Direct sextortion – Sextortion is the practice of extorting money or sexual favors from someone by threatening to reveal evidence of sexual activity. This crime is currently at the highest chart.

Scammers will approach you through direct phone calls, text messages, emails as your opposite sex and offer you sexual favors (online via video call) or at a designated location for scammers installed with cameras and other fraudulent members. Once the victim accepts the offers, she records the sexual activities and blackmails the victim for money or any other favors like drugs. In fact, recently, in some districts of Kashmir, police have solved various sextortion cases and the society is grateful for the appreciable work.

How do scammers get your number?

Scammers get lots of numbers from social media, random number generators and dark web. As a precaution, never share your phone number/email address on social media. Never add yourself to unknown WhatsApp groups, telegram channels, etc. Never submit your details to unknown (unauthorized) shopping websites, avoid syncing your phone (contacts, photos, videos) to web drives, email accounts and you can back up to portable hard drives and keep it safe.

Not everyone among us and in your family will be familiar with these things and will use phones and emails, especially our elders and teenagers at home. It is our primary responsibility to discuss and raise awareness about these scams. Either way, if a family or family member is trapped as a victim, support them instead of teasing them or being harsh.

  • The author is a management and IT professional currently in charge of IT operations at HK Hyundai [email protected]

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