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KANPUR: Recently, a woman hailing from an affluent business family received a WhatsApp message from a close relative. The relative asked her for a particular amount in the message and the woman obliged.

Later, in the day, the woman met the relative physically. When she asked what he needed the money for, the relative declined ever asking for financial help. She then realised she had been tricked by cyber criminals who duplicated the WhatsApp account of the relative to ask her for money.

In a similar incident last week, the principal chief commissioner of income tax, Preeti Jain Das, fell for a similar trap. She got a message from principal chief commissioner Shishir Jha and ended up paying 1 lakh. After realising the con, Das lodged an FIR with the Kotwali police in Kanpur.

Besides these, several other such cases are being reported as cyber criminals are making a good amount of money using this trick. “People can protect themselves from WhatsApp con by activating two-step verification. Unfortunately, those who have been hoodwinked didn’t have two-step verification,” said Punit Tomar, inspector with cybercrime wing of Kanpur police.

Modus Operandi

This is the newest way to con people is simple but effective, said officials. They call their targets while posing as representatives from mobile phone service provider.

These cyber thugs dupe people of money by asking them to save some new settings for 5G services. Sometimes, they tell people about issues regarding connectivity and voice quality. After making up such excuses, they ask the people to dial *123# followed by 10 digits of their phone number.

This diverts the person’s call on the number of the cyber criminals who would get calls. Once this stage is successfully completed, the cyber criminals download WhatsApp using the contact number of their target. For verification, WhatsApp sends two messages with OTPs, which the victims often don’t see (or ignore). The third time, WhatsApp gives a call to share the OTP.

After the OTP is received, the cyber criminals instantly set up two-step verification by taking the total control of the person’s WhatsApp. “After two-step verification, the original user cannot use WhatsApp and the criminals freely contact the people using his/her contact list, asking for money. The whole thing appears so genuine, the display picture, the number the people, at first, do not doubt or care to check, they just send the money,” said Manish Sonkar, additional DCP, crime branch.

“Like the two-step verification the cyber criminals use to lock someone out, people must realise its importance to protect themselves,” he said. In the last couple of months, the numbers of such crimes have risen sharply while the crime branch has managed to recover the lost money of only one person so far.



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