“A group of young men quietly run a lucrative phishing operation from a small village, until a corrupt politician wants a cut of the profit and a cop wants to fight it”, “JAMTARA” newest January release by streaming platform Netflix. We view it as just another crime thriller to binge watch and Good Lord! It is gripping. And now, you’re onto the next show to keep your after office hours busy, aren’t you? But hold up, are you curious to dig deeper in to the reality on which the sensational show is based on? If you are, then this is just the right place.
Let us get back to 2011, it was a big year for the news with highly impactful events happening every month in India, from Anna Hazare undertaking fast, India winning the Cricket World Cup to Formula One races in Noida, while, in a small district of Jharkhand, a group of youth, who were also school dropouts, went outside the district to learn how to earn easy money by recharging phones without payment and soon enough siphoning money out of bank accounts. This small district is none other than Jamtara.
A district with a population of 7.91 lakh people, with a literacy rate of 64% and unemployment rate of 58.71% , primary occupation being agriculture and roads that look like polka dots of potholes, this place is flooded with cell phone towers with lines being busy 24/7, concrete houses with LED T.V, cars and air conditioners, bank branches, up and coming two wheeler showrooms; quite the contrast, isn’t it? Well, what connects the dots is greed for easy money and just more than few ATM cards, sim cards and a bank customer to fool and voila! You have got yourself a Phishing scam.
What is a phishing scam you ask?
Nearly 3rd of all breaches in 2019 involved phishing , with 27% happening via fraudulent emails and 48% via spoofed websites and 25% via phone call and messages.
It is a type of a socially engineered cyber-attack, where one’s user data or personal financial information is stolen like bank login credentials, credit card numbers etc. and all this is gently and openly given by you. It occurs when an attacker, masquerading as a trusted entity, example your bank or company you work for; dupes the victim into opening an email, instant message or answering a phone call, such emails or messages have malicious links that can lead to installation of malware that might freeze your system or reveal sensitive information. Just for an example, you may be sent an email that might appear like coming from your bank but there will be some discrepancy in their name that you will humanly neglect and when you open the website link you will be asked to fill in your details on this fake site and you data will be sent to the attacker.
Coming back to what is cooking in Jamtara, what is their modus operandi?
The attackers call up in a polite and convincing voice, posing as bank officials for reasons like reactivation of account/card, redemption of reward points, linking account with Aadhaar and will ask for details like one-time password, credit/ debit card number, CVV number, expiry date, secure password, internet banking, ATM PIN, login ID and password, then such details will be used to conduct the fraudulent transaction on one hand and on the other hand the money is instantly transferred to different e-wallets that operate on phone numbers procured using fake information and the money is then withdrawn in no time and all traces
meet a dead end, even the sim cards and ATM cards are then disposed off to make it a full proof scam.
So far, more than 80 cases have been registered Suo moto by the Jamtara police station against more than 330 residents while 100 people have been arrested in nearby Karmatar police station. A huge pile of seized LED television sets, ATM cards, Bank passbooks, mobile phones, air conditioners, even sofa sets, few SUVs and washing machines, not to mention seizure of lakhs of rupees, all of this is not a rare sight at these police stations and what is also not rare is flooding of complaints related to such scams, that are lodged every hour of the day not just in Jamtara, but across the country.
Are you safe outside Jamtara?
These phishing experts may be settled in Jamtara but their reach is all over India. Where in January, a Paytm customer in Mumbai was duped for 1.7 lakhs and 3 men were arrested and again in February, a person in Deoghar, was duped for 88 lakhs and 5 men were arrested based in Jamtara.
But until recently, in April, the scammers adapted just 2 weeks into lockdown and started circulating texts to deliver branded liquor at your doorstep by posing as sellers and getting money transfer via UPI or card, the victims desperately shared their CVV numbers and bank details and lost up to 3 lakh rupees.
‘Better safe than sorry’, could it be more true?
While police and cyber cells are trying to keep up with the attackers and making arrests (under sections 419, 420, 468, 471 and 120B of Indian Penal Code; also under sections 66B,66C,66D of the Information Technology Act), we as consumers need to become diligent about sharing the sensitive details while also keeping in mind to report to the bank as well as police, if found under a cyber-attack.
The tagline of the show “ yeh jamtara hain, yaha sabka number aayega” couldn’t be more apt for the current scenario; where the complaint count is ever high , so is the urgency to become a cautious civilian, cause after all, as the tagline suggests, you could be next!