Monday, August 31, 2009


Relatives and friends living overseas are likely to be among the most vulnerable in the latest email fraud, where a person’s account is illegally accessed and mails are sent out seeking monetary help. Bandra-based businessman Al-Naseer Zakaria approached the Mumbai police’s cyber crime cell after an email from his account asked acquaintances for a ‘soft loan’ of 1,800 pounds (Rs 1.27 lakh) because he was supposedly stranded abroad. The police are also studying the case in which adman-turned-civic activist Gerson D’Cunha’s email was similarly hacked into and an appeal for money made.

“A relative of mine replied to the email, in a bid to find out how the fraud would be completed. He received another mail, again from my account, where the address of a residential locality in London was provided. He was told to send a money transfer,’’ D’Cunha told TOI.

“There’s a possibility that the accused has rented a temporary accomodation in London. Once he got the money, he would move out,’’ a police officer said. “To send money overseas from any location in India, one needs to provide a bank account number of the receiver and the exact purpose. But from one western nation to another money can be sent to a postal address. So, there’s a strong possibility of relatives living abroad or travelling overseas getting duped duped.’’

After Zakaria contacted the cyber crime cell, the police sent an application to Microsoft to get his hotmail account blocked to prevent further misuse. “We have also sent a request for Zakaria’s important documents to be retrieved,’’ an investigating officer said. “We are now trying to trace the IP address of the computer used to illegally access Zakaria’s account and send the emails to his contacts.’’

Zakaria, who has studied and lived in the US, told TOI that he had received a mail few months back, asking for his username, password and home country. “The mail had Microsoft’s logo and their corporate address at Washington. I know exactly where their office is and have been operating a hotmail account since 1996. There was just no reason for to believe that the mail was a fake,’’ he said. Zakaria’s woes started after he replied to the mail with his vital account information. “I believe the accused studied the mails in my inbox and the kind of people I have been interacting with before sending help-seeking mails.’’ A Microsoft spokesperson said the company never asks for passwords.

Cyber expert Sanjay Pandey said that while earlier email fraud was a nuisance, now money is the motive. “Now, there are mails circulated with pictures. If you click on the picture, a virus is installed on your computer, locking all your files automatically. To unlock the files, you are told to pay up. Several people in India fall for such fraud because awareness on internet security is very low,’’ he said.

“People can visit to get security help,’’ the Microsoft spokesperson said.

Source: Nitasha Natu | TNN

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