The majority of the people in the country use social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, and Twitter which give them easy access for communication. People use social media for personal interest while others do so to maintain connections with people in other parts of the world.
Users prefer Facebook for personal interests like earning a living, which is often legal but sometimes illegal.
There are also Facebook users who cheat people. These helpless people are initially added as friends before they are duped!
Several incidents have been reported in the past to the Computer Emergency Readiness Team-Co-ordination Center (CERT|CC) in connection with cheating incidents on Facebook.
Check the availability of the international parcel delivery agents with the received delivery agents’ images. After several investigations CERT/CC found out that the Facebook cheaters and the bogus Custom officers were from Sri Lanka
The contacted CERT/CC Principal Information Security Engineer Roshan Chandragupta to obtain more details regarding online frauds and crimes on social media.
Chandragupta said that the majority of the people in the country have social media accounts.
“Most of them use Facebook to connect with friends,” he said.
However he said that with regard to many account holders, who had a myriad of friends, most friends were not known to them personally.
He said that the CERT/CC has received complaints where Facebook users have been cheated or defrauded. These cheats have used Facebook to obtain presents and later held the account holders to ransom.
Some fraudsters using Facebook accounts appear to be genuine foreigners. They often provide a full profile background.
First they send friend requests and try to build confidence. If the friend request is accepted they will next move on to chat, share images and even sent wishes and gifts to build confidence in this relationship.
Most of these criminals are inclined towards building close friendships and pretend to be caring. They share every pain, sorrow and happiness in their lives and provide social media users with advice. Shortly thereafter, the criminals send boxes containing presents such as electrical items and jewellery among other things.
These fraudsters will also say that some amount of money has also been put into a gift parcel to pay in the instance it has to be cleared at the customs department.
Then they will share the pictures of what is being sent- the parcel with its packing and postage bills. Once they post the parcel they ‘post’ a message on Facebook saying that the person had posted a parcel which included foreign currency, the latter being included to pay the bill at the customs department.
Later, they send an SMS stating that the customs department had received a parcel and it could be released only after paying duties. They also send a local bank account number to pay the tax. According to complaints received, the victims had credited the given account with sums like Rs. 20,000, Rs.30,000, Rs.40,000 and Rs.80,000 respectively.
The start of troubles
After the victim pays the tax, he or she will receive another call after a couple of days. A person who claims to be a customs officer then says that the parcel that was received contains undeclared foreign currency, possession of which is illegal. The caller says that the parcel had been seized by the customs department after it went through the scanner. He then requests the victim to release the currencies within a certain period of time after declaring it to the customs officials.The fraudster then asks the victim to pay a Customs duty worth Rs.150,000 to the account number, which details he or she had sent earlier. The criminal would say that the foreign currencies sent with the gift parcel were more than the customs duties.
Then the criminal would demand the victim to compensate the expenses incurred and to keep the change. Meanwhile, another caller, claiming to be the agent delivering the parcel, requests the victim to pay money soon, as he was unable to attend duty for a long time and he had to send details of delivery conformation to the head office. If the victim tries to contact the bogus customs officer, he would say that the foreign currencies within the parcel are more than the Customs declaration duty and it’s better to pay the amount to get the currencies released.
They would also threaten these victims that if they attempt to visit the customs department the customs officers would prevent them saying that if they attempted to declare the currencies they may be arrested. They maintain that the foreign currencies were brought into the country illegally .The bogus officer also tells the victim to pay the customs declaration fee to the aforementioned local bank account and then the parcel with the foreign currencies could be released.
After the customs declaration period expires several messages will be sent via the ‘fake’ Facebook account. Later the account will be deactivated or the profile would be changed, so that no one can trace them.
Chandragupta said that there were no recorded complaints of anyone having made such payments after parcels were seized by the customs department. He requested Facebook users to limit adding known friends and not to upload confidential or personnel details. He also warned Facebook users not to accept friend requests by unknown persons and not to chat with them.
If the Customs receives such a parcel via an international courier service, documents with hard copies will have to be sent to the receiver. We never use soft copies or images. Increasing use of social media makes people to make new connections with unknown persons
He also requested users to ignore if such messages were received and to cross-check the received Customs declaration bill images with the customs department to check whether it is genuine. “Check the availability of the international parcel delivery agents with the received delivery agents’ images. After several investigations CERT/CC found out that the Facebook cheaters and the bogus Custom officers were from Sri Lanka.The delivery officer was also a local person and he used to speak in English with an accent, like a foreigner,” he said. When contacted Sri Lanka Customs Acting Customs Media Spokesman Deputy Director Vipula Minuwanpitiya said that no complaint regarding such an incident had been received so far. However, he said that the social media based frauds were becoming a matter of great concern these days.
“If the Customs receives such a parcel via an international courier service, documents with hard copies will have to be sent to the receiver. We never use soft copies or images. Increasing use of social media makes people to make new connections with unknown persons. We understand that even educated people fall victim to such frauds,” Minuwanpitiya said.
The Customs Department advises the public not to fall victim to such scams.
“If anyone receives such images and someone askesthem to pay Customs’ duty to unknown accounts so that goods can be released, immediately inform the Police,” he said.