Did you know that frauds are not only carried out by scamsters calling customers from fake numbers but the other way round as well? Suppose you want to reach out to a bank’s customer care number, what would you do? There could be a possibility that you would search for that number on a search engine or on a social media platform?
What if that number takes you to a fake call centre? In that instance, when you reach out to a bank representative to get your grievance redressed — you would end up ringing up a fake call centre.
This is what is happening to a large number of people these days, shows a study. In 2022 alone, threat actors used thousands of fake numbers to beckon gullible customers into their fold.
A study ‘An Analysis of the Fake Customer Care Numbers in India’ carried out by CloudSEK has discovered that there are nearly 31,000 mobile numbers that are used by threat actors to run such customer care scams.
It is interesting to note that these fake call centres not only deal with finance and banking customers but the customers from other sectors as well such as healthcare (19%), telecommunications (10.5%), entertainment (5%), aviation (2.3%) and software (1.8%).
What one would wonder as to how can one protect oneself from these scamsters. But before this, one must understand the way of functioning of these fake centres. The modus operandi of fake call centres works like this:
A. First of all, scamsters buy a number of numbers under fake identities.
B. These numbers are then embedded in social media posts, ad campaigns and SEO optimised websites This is done so that when customers want to reach out to the customer care, they reach out to some of these call centres via social media posts and others.
The study shows that nearly 88 percent of fake customer care numbers were distributed via Facebook advertisements, posts, profiles and pages, followed by Twitter (6.2%) and Google.
C. As a result of this embedding, some aggrieved customers end up contacting the fake call centres. Then they get sensitive information and OTP.
D. Scammers get this information to access bank accounts, credit card and carry out frauds, etc.
Some of the steps to follow to keep your money safe:
1. Confidential info: RBI and banks often point out that customers should never any confidential share information with anyone — not even with bank officials. So, if a bank official is asking for such confidential information -- s/he is trying to trap you.
2. Do not enter PIN: When someone promises you to send money by pretending to be a customer care executive — there is no need to enter PIN, password. Also, QR codes are scanned to send the money, not to receive them.
3. Say no to unverified links: It is a common tactic for fraudsters to send unverified links via SMSs, email, social media and instant messenger which look similar to the existing apps of authorised entities. The moment these links are clicked, the sender gains access to the receiver’s computing device or smartphone.
Thereafter, the fraudsters can get access even to OTPs sent on the device.
4. Avoid downloading any screen sharing app: It is dangerous and never recommended to download any screen sharing app on your device and phone. Upon downloading such a link, you end up giving access to the other person.
And RBI says that download any such app only when you are speaking on a toll free number given on the official website of bank. And after the call ends, simply remove the screen sharing app.
5. Rely on official websites: The banking regulator, in its booklet on Modus Operandi of Financial Fraudsters, says that customer care numbers are to be obtained from the official websites of banks and companies. And never call the numbers directly displayed on the search engine results as these are often manipulated by fraudsters.
It is important to note that the customer care numbers are never in form of mobile numbers.