Added to a new Telegram or WhatsApp group? Asked to invest money in online tasks or share trading? Beware, as you are likely to fall prey to cyber fraud.

In Gautam Buddha Nagar district, data from the Noida Police revealed how hundreds of people have been duped of Rs 56.16 crore by cybercriminals in eight months — between October 2023 and June this year. Of the eight types of fraud that came to light in this period, the most common one is investment fraud — it makes up over 80% of cases. The others are frauds that try to lure people through part-time jobs and matrimonial apps, social engineering fraud, and extortion and sextortion, said police officers.

Gautam Buddha Nagar Police Commissioner Laxmi Singh said: “At present, cyber fraudsters are targeting educated people residing in Noida. They add them to Telegram and WhatsApp groups and lure them to invest in the stock market or like YouTube videos to make money… To curb this, we are taking immediate action in such cases. We are also carrying out drives in schools, colleges, and housing complexes to educate people about such frauds.”

According to police data, 135 fraud cases are related to investment scams; 18 to FedEx fraud; 18 to OTP scams; 6 related to fake suppliers; and 3 were job fraud.

Apart from these, 24 other cyber fraud cases have been registered at the Cyber ​​Crime police station since October last year.

Festive offer

In these cases, the modus operandi of cybercriminals ranged from luring people to invest in schemes, joining part-time work-from-home gigs on the pretext of high returns, and coercing them to part with their money through ‘digital arrest’.

So far, police have been able to freeze only about Rs 6.47 crore or 11% of the defrauded amount. Nineteen accused have been arrested and sent to jail by the Cyber ​​Crime Police to date, officers said.

Here are some common frauds that have come to light:

Investment fraud: This comprises over 80% of cyber frauds at present. How does it work? Unidentified criminals contact people on social media platforms and lure them to invest money, transferring amounts to different bank accounts, on the pretext of high returns. They, at times, also convince the victims to download online apps — here, it appears that the money invested by the victims is increasing. The scam often comes to light when the person tries to withdraw the amount, only to find they can’t.

Part-time job scam: Victims are approached through social media platforms, and then added to WhatsApp or Telegram groups for work-from-home jobs. Initially, fraudsters pay the victims some money to gain their trust and then make them transfer big amounts for higher returns — they never get the money back.

Digital arrest fraud: Here, people receive calls or text messages from unidentified “officials” claiming to be from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Customs Department, or Cyber ​​Cell among other such government agencies. The scammers tell the victims that illegal goods and parcels in their names have been confiscated. As a “compromise”, the accused demanded a sum — which amounts to lakhs — from the victims to clear their names. In certain cases, the victims are “digitally arrested”, and forced to remain visible over Skype or other video conferencing platforms to the criminals until their demands are met.

Airport gift fraud: Cybercriminals first befriend victims on Instagram or Facebook. Then, they tell their victims they have sent gifts or valuables from abroad which have been confiscated by a GST or Customs officer at the airport. The fraudster pleads for money, claiming he will be arrested otherwise. As soon as the money is received, the criminal switches off his/her number.

Other such cyber fraud cases are related to sextortion, matrimonial prospects, loans, social engineering, fake customer services among others which comprise 95% of cyber crimes in Gautam Buddha Nagar.