Passang Tshering

09 09, 2023

Online Scamming Unveiled: Navigating the Web of Deceit with Common Sense

Online Scamming Unveiled: Navigating the Web of Deceit with Common Sense

Once upon a time, when our rural folks ventured down south to the Indian town of Jaigaon, the whole village would give them warnings: "Guard your bag, watch for pickpockets, check your purchases twice, haggle for half-price, don't flaunt your money!" But despite all these precautions, stories of being deceived and swindled still trickled back home. Safety was never guaranteed amidst the bustling crowd, teeming with con artists of varying expertise.

Now, let's fast forward to the era of smartphones and social media. We find ourselves exposed to a vast, intricate world far grander than Jaigaon. In this sprawling digital landscape, you don't even need to step outside your home to fall prey to con artists. The tales of online scams and their bitter consequences have become all too familiar.

I've personally met victims of online scams and heard their harrowing tales. I've even managed to rescue a few from the brink of becoming victims. Listening to their accounts, it becomes painfully clear how easily they could have spotted the tell-tale signs, had they only been more aware.

These scammers are not just lone individuals; they're often organized groups or companies that have fine-tuned their strategy. Casting a wide net, they hope to reel in those of us who might be a tad more unsuspecting. After all, they need willing participants to make their schemes work. They employ an array of tactics, preying on our lack of awareness or moments of vulnerability. They need our cooperation to execute their plans; without our unwitting assistance, they're powerless. Despite their grand schemes, they're not the hacking masterminds that can breach your social or bank accounts. If they were truly that skilled, they wouldn't waste their efforts on us; they'd have their sights set on bigger fish.

So, let's agree on this: let's not help them steal from us;

How many times have you heard someone lament about their Facebook or WeChat account being hacked? The truth is, it's not a walk in the park for scammers to pull off unless you've taken the bait on a phishing site. A phishing site is like a mirage of a legitimate website – it imitates well-known brands, organizations, or services, all with the intention of deceiving you into divulging sensitive information like usernames, passwords, credit card details, and OTP. Those links forwarded to you via messengers promising gifts, prizes, scholarships – don't fall for them. You must have seen a phony UNICEF subsidy link being shared these days; you can make out from the unrelated web address. If you've clicked on such a link and followed their prompts, you've unwittingly compromised your data. Just know this: they're not executing hard-core hacking; they're capitalizing on our naivety.

Once they've infiltrated your account, they'll use it to message your contacts, seeking money. Their tales are well-rehearsed, playing on urgency. "I'm traveling and lost all my money. Can you urgently send me some cash?" And in your desire to help, your friends and family who trust you might be tricked into parting with their money.

My sister-in-law experienced this first-hand last year. Urgently, she transferred Nu.15000 to an unknown account based on a message from a geog accountant she knew from work. A simple phone call could have spared her this ordeal. The rule of thumb? Never send money solely based on online messages. Make a call to confirm. And if the account name doesn't match the person requesting the money, that's a red flag that should prompt you to pick up the phone.

Lottery scams have ensnared many Bhutanese. Scammers will message or call you, announcing with great fanfare, "Congratulations, you've won 25 Lakhs!" Here's the reality check: there's no such thing as winning a lottery you didn't buy a ticket for. Period. But the lure of big figures blinds people, leading them right into the trap. They end up shelling out fees upon fees to claim their supposed prize money. A friend who worked at a remote school even travelled to Bajo seeking my assistance to send Nu.10,000 as GST to claim his Rs.25 Lakhs prize. It took quite a bit of explaining to convince him that he was being scammed.

Recently, a new kind of scam has reared its head – fake crypto investment schemes that promise to double your returns within hours or days. Cases like this have even made it to the news, as reported by Kuensel. But here's the thing: investments don't double overnight; it's a tale too good to be true. If you're considering investing in digital assets, go through trusted entities.

Among the oldest and most prevalent scams is catfishing. Individuals craft fake personas using stolen photos and information to portray themselves as attractive, successful individuals. They use these personas to establish relationships with unsuspecting victims. I once knew a woman who sent Nu.36,000 to release a supposed parcel containing a diamond ring and iPhone that was stranded at Delhi Airport. She believed her boyfriend, who was supposedly on a ship and unable to access his bank. The truth emerged when she requested Nu.60,000 from me to resend the parcel. A quick Google search shattered her dreams of a dashing boyfriend and diamond ring.

But I was powerless when it came to helping a relative who had been duped out of millions of Ngultrum by a woman he believed was a business partner for a hotel venture in Bhutan. The scammers had expertly manipulated him into thinking he'd struck gold with a wealthy investor. He ended up sending large sums of money, even borrowing from his office and friends, all for supposed paperwork and more.

The bottom line? You can't have a legitimate relationship of any kind, let alone send money, without having met the person face-to-face. A simple video call could save you a world of pain.


Passang Tshering

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