Recently, I received a direct message from a cousin via the messenger app of a social media website. The message stated that he had lost his wallet, money and ATM cards while travelling abroad, and sought financial assistance through an international cash transfer service.
Since I was unable to reach the cash transfer service right away, I asked the cousin to let me know of another way of sending money. He said he would ask someone else to deposit money into my account and I should wire it to him through the online money transfer service. I agreed and sent the relevant details in reply to his messages on the messenger app.
But something kept bothering me so I decided to call my cousin. He told me that his social media account had been hacked and the mischief-makers were demanding money from a number of people added as ‘friends’ on his social media account.
I was relieved to hear that, and thanked my stars that I had not transferred any money till that time. However, since I had made the mistake of sharing my bank account details, I transferred all the money from the said account and closed it.
Some others did fall prey to the scam. Indeed, many others get trapped by such scams every day. Online financial fraud, identity theft and phishing of information have become widespread, and most ordinary computer users are unable to detect foul play in their computers and with their social media accounts.
Those responsible for such activities are professional scammers who mask their IP addresses and call from bank-like UAN numbers to acquire sensitive information and then use it to acquire further account details from banks. They usually operate from rural areas and trap poor people through various schemes that often involve stealing their identity to buy SIM cards.
Given the situation, both private and state-owned banks should invest in upgrading the banking system and rely on enhanced security measures, such as anti-skimming devices, to protect their customers from scammers and fraudsters.
The State Bank of Pakistan also needs to play its due role in this regard. Meanwhile, the public should be advised repeatedly never to give their bank-related details to anyone who asks on social media texting or messaging apps.