In this blog post, Ayush Agarwal, a student of UPES Dehradun and pursuing B.Tech LLB specialisation in Cyberlaw describes the recent trend of online Nigerian scams that attempt to fleece money from innocent people.
Online scams have become a major menace in India. Emails claiming that the recipient has won a huge lottery or prize or that someone is contacting them from Africa to give them a handsome fortune of a dead president has fooled many people into giving away a lot of money to online scamsters.
These scam messages are not only sent through emails but also by messages and phone calls. Scam emails come from free email accounts such as Outlook, Gmail, MSN & many such free email websites and phone calls come from numbers registered in a distant foreign country.
If you have replied to any such mail they will ask you the credit card number and bank account details and will ask to transfer some amount of your money to them as for carrier and exchange and convenience charges around some lakhs rupees to be credited into their account and after this they will switch off their number and will disappear. This is the methodology used in every scam.
Legal Provisions for online scams
All the online scams are Forgery and frauds as they take the name of recognised and honorary organisations. In India, for example, they frequently use the name of RBI (Reserve Bank of India) which is the central banking institution of India.
Cases related to this crime can be prosecuted under section 468 (forging documents) and 471 (forging documents as genuine) of Indian Penal Code and section 66D of Information Technology Act, 2000 (forging document through an electronic medium).
Punishment under section 468 and section 471 of Indian Penal Code is up to 7 years imprisonment and liable for fine.
Punishment under section 66D of Information Technology Act, 2000 is up to 3 years imprisonment and shall be liable for the fine of INR 1,00,000.
This is a sample of an online Nigerian scam email.
Preventive measure to safeguard yourself from online scam
Online Nigerian scam rates are on the increase and a lot of gullible people in India don’t know about the reality behind these scams. Here are some of the actions one can take when they come across such online scams:
- Report the mail as spam. Also, Gmail provides a new feature wherein you can mark an email as spam and also report it as phishing.
- Don’t share any information regarding your credit card bank details to them and even not help them in transferring the money. Money laundering is a criminal offence under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 for three years to 7 years rigorous imprisonment.
- Verify the identity of the organisation from which you are getting the mail. Contact that had been deposited, not from the message sent to you but from your search and phonebooks. Forward such emails to their general email ids listed on their official website.
- Always remember there is no scheme of getting richer by just emailing. They will never transfer the money to your account. It’s just to fool the gullible and greedy people on the internet.
- If you are the victim of any such scam, you can report about this to your nearest cyber cell and also help them so that the Nigerian group can be caught and cannot defraud others.
Here is how to lodge a complaint in the cyber cell.
Related Cases in India
Case 1: Cyber crime cell Pune reported the case of a Nigerian man duping the people through online fraud in the year 2015. A lady was cheated of Rs 16 lakh. It all started when the lady received a mail seemingly from the email id of the foreign exchange department of RBI. After reading this email, she replied to the email and got the phone call asking for money. She arranged money for that and made hotel arrangements for the foreigner to come and stay. She paid the amount of Rs 16 lakh in exchange of a briefcase with GBP of around 5,00,000 pounds which eventually turned out to be fake currency.
Case 2: Not only lotteries and fake mails but fake advertisement also lead many of them to be fooled. A Nigerian group of 8 people posted an advertisement offering to sell high ends cars on OLX and quickr on a steep discount. The customers were asked to pay the money in advance or deposit the token money into a bank account number provided by the scamsters. After the money was deposited, they used to switch off the number and run away with the money. For four months the gang duped around 13 customers.
Online scammers come up with never ending new methodologies. However, many of these groups have been arrested with the help of cyber cells in India. One must report such mails and incidents to the cyber cell.
Also, don’t get tempted by the lure of easy money on the internet. It is usually a conman who has hundreds of tricks under his belt to steal your money.
- Nigerian scams, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (2015), https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/unexpected-money/nigerian-scams (last visited Dec 27, 2016).
- Lottery scam, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottery_scam (last visited Dec 27, 2016).
- Express News Service, Pune: Nigerian held for duping 90 people through online fraudThe Indian Express (2016), http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-nigerian-held-for-duping-90-people-through-online-fraud-2819440/ (last visited Dec 27, 2016).
- Christopher F. Chabris & Daniel Simons, Why We Should Scam the ScammersThe Wall Street Journal (2012), http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443931404577548813973954518 (last visited Dec 27, 2016).
- Harsha Raj Gatty, Bangalore: Nigerian gang arrested for online fraudThe Indian Express (2015), http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/bangalore-nigerian-gang-arrested-for-online-fraud/ (last visited Dec 27, 2016).
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevention_of_Money_Laundering_Act,_2002 (last visited Dec 27, 2016).