June 15, 2024

Online scams targeted at Indians and largely originating from three countries in Southeast Asia—Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, are a significant concern. A whopping 46% of the estimated Rs. 1,776 crore lost in Internet frauds, reported in the first four months of this year, has reportedly been traced to these locations by the Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C).

Operating under the Union Home Ministry, the I4C primarily works towards the prevention, detection, and prosecution of nationwide cybercrime. Its efforts have been corroborated by data from the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (NCRP), which recorded more than 7.4 lakh complaints filed between January 1 and April 30 in 2024.

A Look at the Online Scams

According to the I4C, the scams can primarily be grouped into four categories, each using a specific method of operation.

The trading scam involves fraudsters posing as stock market experts and making bogus investment recommendations through social media. Victims often get sucked into trading on unauthorized apps, lured by the opportunity of ‘huge’ profits. More than Rs 1420.48 crore was lost to this scam during the first four months of this year, notes I4C CEO Rajesh Kumar.

In what’s known as the “digital arrest” scam, criminals intimidate victims into paying money by posing as law enforcement officers online. Losses from this particular type of scam amounted to Rs 120.30 crore during the same period.

The “investment scam (task-based)” lures victims with promises of large sums of money for boosting certain companies’ online ratings. This form of deception led to losses worth Rs 222.58 crore.

The romance/dating scam typically involves false online relationships, with the culmination being a plea for monetary help. This scam accounted for Rs 13.23 crore in losses.

Why Southeast Asia?

The focus on Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, as the source of these scams is a result of comprehensive data analysis from the NCRP and inputs from all states and union territories. Kumar also pointed out Mandarin characters in many of the sites used in these scams, hinting at a potential Chinese connection.

### Frequently Asked Questions

**What types of online scams are Indians falling prey to?**

A: According to the Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre, the main categories of scams targeting Indians are trading scams, ‘digital arrest’ scams, ‘investment scams’ (task-based), and romance/dating scams.

**What measures are the Indian authorities taking to prevent these scams?**

A: To tackle these scams, the Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C) under the Union Home Ministry, is taking proactive measures. Their work involves creating an effective framework for prevention, detection, investigation, and the subsequent prosecution of cybercrime in the country. Given the international nature of these scams, cooperation with foreign agencies could be a key part of their strategy going forward.

**Why are Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia being highlighted as sources for these scams?**

A: These countries have been identified as the origins of a significant 46% of such scams targeting Indians, based on data analyzed by the Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C). The detection of Mandarin characters on several websites associated with these scams also suggest potential Chinese involvement.