Fraud Alert: Ponzi Crypto App Dupes Thousands; Social Media Connection of Kerala Human Sacrifice Case
Yogesh Sapkale | 14 October 2022
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Every time we speak or write about fraud, we tell people not to be greedy or act out of fear created by fraudsters. Unfortunately, people ignore these warnings and fall for threats (to freeze bank accounts and cut off electricity) or invest money in products they do not understand. These people end up losing their hard-earned money to a variety of frauds.
 
Thousands of people lost money in a crypto trading app that was promising huge returns on investment and more money for recruiting new 'investors'.
 
Many of you may have read about the Kerala case, where two women were killed allegedly as part of a 'ritualistic human sacrifice' in the Pathanamthitta district. The conspirators in this gruesome murder case met through social media and all three accused are now behind bars. In both cases, social media was a common meeting ground.
 
Fortunately, the dangers of such ignorance and the need to impart timely education are finally being understood. As always, India's most literate state, Kerala has taken the lead in imparting basic skills to students on being able to detect fake news spread through social media.
 
Ponzi Crypto App Dupes Thousands
 
The life savings of many people were wiped out after they invested in ECE Ltd, a crypto app which had promised daily and monthly returns. Investors from Mumbai and various states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha are approaching their local police stations to file a complaint against ECE. 
 
According to Mid-Day, ECE Ltd, which claimed to be a US-based firm, had opened two Telegram groups—ECE Indian Community, which had more than 19,000 members, and Ece Official—where they spread their investor base.
 
"As per estimates, the company has decamped with hundreds of crores of rupees. Many victims said they had used their life's savings; some even took loans, as the app promised high returns."
 
Quoting the police, the report says ECE offered high returns and benefits to lure investors. Earlier, they also let them withdraw profits. "But as it had high returns, more and more people started investing the profit too. It also gave a US$200 bonus to those who got more people to invest in the app," the report says.
 
The newspaper says, till September, 'investors' of the crypto app were able to withdraw money. However, the withdrawal option vanished. Investors were told by the 'executives' of ECE that there were some issues from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) side and it would be resolved soon. Further, ECE told investors that it would deduct 5% from the principal if they want to withdraw money. However, if the investor brought in new investors, there would be no deduction, the report says.
 
There are several cases where common people are lured into investing in the stock market, forex trade or anything fancy with promises to earn huge returns. A few months ago, a person from Pune was cheated of Rs4.37 crore under the pretext of investing money in forex trading and earning huge returns. The 'investor', in this case, was promised a 24% return.
 
As Moneylife keeps reiterating, if anyone promises investment returns of more than the provident fund's current interest rate, then be very careful. Also, stay away from financial products you do not understand. For example, if you have no idea how the foreign currency market or trading or a crypto trading works, it is better to avoid any 'investment' plan that offers higher returns from forex trade or crypto trading.
 
Kerala Human Sacrifice Case
 
When we decided to start the 'Fraud Alert' series, we never thought we would write about murder or killings. Unfortunately, the gruesome killings in Kerala, the most literate state in India, in the name of ritualistic human sacrifice to bring exalted status, highlights the shady side of social media, which people must understand. Kochi police have arrested prime accused Mohammed Shafi and a couple, Bhagaval Singh and his wife Laila in this case. 
 
Kochi police commissioner CH Nagaraju told IANS, "It has now been proved that he (Shafi) is a psychopath and a sexual pervert, and the one who derives sexual pleasure and will go to any extent even to kill for it. He has been using a fake Facebook account and it says that if anyone has financial problems to contact him. That is how he befriended Singh, and it took three years for him to win their confidence and trap them, and the crime took place."
 
Remember, social media is turning out to be a more dangerous place frequented by criminals. Also, understand it is not and cannot replace your friendly neighbourhood katta or meeting place. So, keep a safe distance from social media and messages from strangers or people pretending to be known to you. 
 
Sextortion Deaths
 
A 19-year-old collegian allegedly committed suicide after being harassed and blackmailed in a 'sextortion' case in Dattawadi in Pune. This is the second such case in the past few days in Pune.
 
Quoting the police, a report from Times of India says, "The teen, an undergraduate commerce student, had killed himself on 28th September. His brother has told us the accused extorted Rs4,500 from the deceased on three different occasions as well after threatening to leak objectionable photographs."
 
A few days ago, a 23-year-old man from the Dhankawadi area in Pune allegedly committed suicide after he was blackmailed over a nude video of him by someone posing as a woman.
 
In all sextortion cases, criminals use the fear factor to extort money from the victim. However, instead of fear, the victim needs to take guidance from someone who knows and understands these issues. Most importantly, without any fear, the victim must file a first information report (FIR) at the nearest police station. This only would ensure that proper action is taken against the criminals. 
 
Kerala Students Learning Skills To Identify Fake News
 
To put an end to the fake news menace, nearly 2mn (million)  school students from class V to X across Kerala will be taught basic skills to prevent the spread of fake news through social media.
 
Announcing the completion of the third phase of the Satyameva Jayathe digital media literacy programme, education minister V Sivankutty says 5,920 trainers had been deployed to reach out to 948K upper primary students and 1.02mn high school students. The Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) has completed the fake news prevention and awareness programme; he told The Hindu (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/kite-equips-19-lakh-school-children-to-handle-fake-news/article65988577.ece).
 
A good move, indeed. 
 
How To Report Cyberfraud?
 
Do report cybercrimes to the national cyber crime reporting portal http://cybercrime.gov.in or call the toll-free national helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c).