Sunday, May 26, 2024

India blocks over 1,000 Skype accounts used for ‘digital arrests’ by cyber fraudsters

India’s anti-cyber fraud agency, the Indian Cyber Coordination Centre (I4C), has blocked over 1,000 Skype accounts linked to intimidation, blackmail, extortion and “digital arrests” of citizens by cyber criminals impersonating law enforcement officials. The I4C took this action in collaboration with Microsoft to combat a disturbing new trend of online economic crimes, The Hindu reported.

The criminals typically call potential victims claiming the victim has been involved in illegal activities like sending contraband goods or that a relative has been implicated in a crime. They then demand payment to resolve the fabricated legal issue supposedly. In some cases, the fraudsters force victims to undergo a “digital arrest” by remaining on a Skype or video call until their monetary demands are met.

“The fraudsters are known to use studios modelled after police stations and government offices and also wear fake uniforms to appear genuine,” said an Indian home ministry statement released Tuesday. “Across the country, several victims have lost large amounts of money to such criminals.”

The ministry stated this “organised online economic crime” appears to be operated by “cross-border crime syndicates.” In addition to the Skype account blocks, the I4C is also facilitating the blocking of phone numbers, mobile devices and bank accounts associated with fraudsters.

A large number of complaints have been reported on India’s National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal detailing these impersonation scams. The I4C, which coordinates cybercrime response for the home ministry, says it is working closely with other ministries, the Reserve Bank of India, law enforcement and others to counter the fraud.

The agency has issued alerts about the scams on social media and is providing technical support to state police for investigating cases. Indian citizens are being advised to immediately report any such calls to authorities and not make payments.

“On receipt of such calls, the citizens should immediately report the incident on cybercrime helpline number 1930 or www.cybercrime.gov.in for assistance,” the home ministry stated.

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