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Caught in a web: Victims of cybercrime reflect on trauma and hard-won lessons in the wake of losses | #cybercrime | #computerhacker

In the aftermath of a cyber fraud in 2022, a 26-year-old woman found herself ensnared in a financial quagmire and is still reeling from the staggering loss of ₹19 lakh. Despite exhaustive efforts by law enforcement agencies, the trail has remained elusive.

Ramani V. (name changed), lured by a work-from-home (WFH) advertisement on Instagram, clicked a link following which she started receiving messages on WhatsApp. The fraudsters even spoke to her through WhatsApp calls. She was asked to type 40-page content in word format as part of the job. In anticipation of securing the job, Ramani, mother of a child, typed the content and sent it across. “I took about 12 days to complete the work. After I sent the content, the fraudsters posing as recruiters directed me to send registration fees, processing fees, quality check fees, salary transaction fees, and others. In about 15 days, I transferred about ₹19 lakh,” she lamented.

Ms. Ramani, besides emptying her account, pledged gold to arrange money keeping her spouse in the dark. A Bachelor of Computer Applications graduate, Ms. Ramani in her eagerness to earn money to better the family’s living status was deceived by the cybercriminals. “Now, I am working as a receptionist at a gym near my residence to earn back my money. The incident haunts me everyday,” she said. 

Lokesh Reddy (name changed), a 62-year-old businessman who operated a wholesale grocery shop, was rendered bankrupt by a cyber fraud. A fraudster withdrew ₹90 lakh in about 5,000 transactions between 2021 and 2023. Mr. Reddy said even today, he has no clue on how he was deceived. He had opened this account to carry out shop-related transactions. The fraudster spent his money on buying valuable items from other shops. “The police too have no clue as to what happened. Now, the entire family depends on my son’s salary.” 

Another 32-year-old businessman who lost ₹5 lakh after ordering tissue paper said that after seeing an advertisement on Google, he called the number and placed an order for tissue paper. The person on the other hand asked for full payment in advance. “Even to this day, I do not understand why I believed him. After I made the payment, he stopped picking up my calls. After this, I have stopped doing business with strangers. Now, I do a detailed background check. It is a learning for me.”

Many victims The Hindu contacted did not agree to speak about the crime. A public relation executive from Bengaluru, who landed in trouble after downloading a fraudulent loan app, said she has moved on and did not want to talk. The woman’s photos were stolen and her morphed picture was sent to her family and friends.

The victims of cybercrimes, most of the time, do not even file a complaint with the police believing it to be an embarrassment. The victims also keep family members in the dark about the incident, the police said.

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