Cybercrime: Honeytrapping is the sweetest modus operandi

Mumbai: After phishing and lottery scams, cybercriminals have turned their attention to social media platforms to look for new prey. Forget the Nigerian scamster emailing you about your winning a lottery that you never knew you’d entered and your having won millions in British sterling pounds. Forget the businessman looking for an investment opportunity in India. That is old hat. Fraudsters are now doffing their hats to the oldest lure in the world — honey traps. And dating websites are their hunting ground of choice.

According to police data from 2018, while the most common cyber crime is credit/debit card fraud with 1,122 complaints, Facebook-related cases of cheating are third on the list, with 181 complaints. Social media cheating cases are followed by general internet fraud, with 183 complaints in a year. Similarly, scams committed by sending fraudulent and encrypted e-mails accounted for 75 cases, while 70 complaints were related to WhatsApp fraud. A senior cyberpolice officer, said, “The modus operandi has changed with time, from cheating people with lottery and phishing email scams to targeting people, typically middle-aged women, through social media, especially Tinder, WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. The accused usually establish trust with their victim by chatting for a few months.”

“The accused look for profiles of women in the 35-45 age bracket. They befriend them, and later ask for money by weaving a fake story of financial crisis or business proposal. The initial point of contact is social media messenger, which is later followed by sharing of local mobile numbers, whose SIM cards are registered under fake names. This makes it difficult for police to trace the accused after a case is lodged against them,” said a senior officer of the cyberpolice station at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC).

Taking all precautions to save young minds from going off-track, Maharashtra’s Anti- Terrorism Squad (ATS) has identified social media websites and dating applications as one of the most-exploited channels of radicalisation. In many cases, youth have been radicalised on the pretext of beginning a romantic relationship, after they comply with conditions for radicalisation. This particular modus operandi is being increasingly adopted by foreign nationals, with gullible Indians, hopeful of marrying into a well-to-do family are duped under such pretexts.

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