Fraud Alert: Universal Rules To Stay Safe Online in 2023 & Beyond
Yogesh Sapkale | 31 December 2022
As we gear up to welcome 2023 with great enthusiasm and hope, we must remember that criminal gangs also feel the same. They have also lined up great plans to dupe people with their ever-successful toolkit of fear and greed.
So what we, as end-users of online and digital products, should do is stay vigilant and aware of traps laid by cybercriminals. This is important because those who follow some universal rules of online engagement are less likely to be harmed in 2023 and beyond. 
I also want to tell you about recent cases of fraud, where criminals targeted bank accounts and insurance policies of people who are dead.
Impersonating the Dead!
A few months ago, I had warned about a new scam where fraudsters are found impersonating individuals or businesses. Cybercriminals are now finding easier targets – people who are not in a position to be vigilant or check their accounts because they are dead. Criminals have found ways to withdraw money from bank accounts or file insurance claims in the names of deceased persons. How does this work?
According to a report from Mid-Day, the police registered two cases wherein fraudsters have withdrawn money from bank accounts of deceased persons. Salim Beg died in February 2021. His wife Akhtari went to Great Bombay Co-Operative Bank Ltd in Dahisar East, to submit her husband's death certificate and claim the funds in his accounts. The bank manager told her to produce an affidavit and succession certificate to claim Mr Beg's account. She filed an application in the Bombay High Court (HC) for the succession certificate. 
However, a couple of months later, she received a call from the bank manager about transactions in her husband's account, where someone had transferred Rs5.89 lakh. "According to the manager, two similar incidents had occurred in the branch earlier and the people concerned had lodged complaints at the Dahisar police station," the report says.
In another case, two employees of an outsourcing agency were arrested by the Goregaon police on 15 December 2022 for allegedly stealing Rs1.30 crore from the account of Dr Hirendra Pal, a customer of State Bank of India (SBI), who died in October 2014.
"Police investigation revealed that the victim's know-your-customer (KYC) details were updated at the Jawahar Nagar branch of SBI in Goregaon and once this was done, the amount was transferred via mobile banking to over dozens of bank accounts in Mumbai," the report says.
The newspaper report also shares how two employees of an insurance company settled about 50 policies by transferring Rs1.5 crore to their relatives' bank accounts. Both the employees had access to the policy and bank details of customers from across the country as part of their job of handling cases where policyholders have stopped paying premiums. Police have arrested the duo.
According to a former banker and consumer activist, Abhay Datar, the family members of a deceased person can file an application with the bank and request a debit freeze on the account. “This,” he says, "will prevent withdrawals or outbound transfers from the account while keeping creditline intact to receive payments, if any, in the deceased person’s bank account."
Whether sudden or expected, the death of a loved one or parent is a difficult time for us. In these circumstances, handling financial matters while coping with emotional pain can be stressful. You may want to read an article on 'How To Handle Inheritance Issues on the Death of a Parent/ Spouse?' 
Universal Rules To Stay Safe Online
The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection and also to look at the emerging trends shaping our future. Here I am talking about our digital lives. 
Security software provider Avast has three major predictions for 2023. Ransomware will become an increasingly serious problem; scams will continue to be a favourite method for cybercriminals; and cybercrime as a business will become even more sophisticated, it says.
Michal Salat, threat intelligence director at Avast, says, "Cybergroups go to many lengths to tap into people's worst fears to deceive them into sending money or giving up personal data because it is easier to make people vulnerable than hacking their devices."
As experts keep pointing out, cybercrime has become a business, growing at an alarming speed, and thus capturing various spaces in cyberspace. A more worrying factor is the easy availability of hacking tools, malware and other toolkits used for cybercrimes. For example, some open-source malware are now readily available for distribution on platforms like Discord. 
"People, including young people with less technical knowledge, can now get their hands on malware and may be more inclined to join the dark side given current economic hardships," Mr Salat says.
While no remedy or permanent injection is available to remain safe online, here are some universal rules to follow.
  • For support, visit the official website of service-providers
  • Remember that no service-provider will ever ask you to verify your account over a call.
  • Regularly change passwords and personal identification numbers (PIN) of accounts and credit cards.
  • If the option for two-factor authentication is available, then use it.
  • Don't click on links shared by unknown people through SMS, e-mail and WhatsApp.
  • Don't download any unauthenticated app on your mobile suggested through a suspicious SMS, e-mail and WhatsApp.
  • Avoid clicking on links and downloading attachments. Trojans, which can bring rootkits, spyware or adware with them, often slip into your device disguised as a harmless attachment. 
  • Don't use search engines for customer support numbers.
  • Don't share sensitive and confidential information like your user (login) ID, account number, debit or credit card details and one-time passcode (OTP) with anyone. 
How To Report Cyber Fraud?
Do report cyber crimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c). 
Stay Safe & Alert!
Wish you a Happy New Year!