Did you recently get a WhatsApp text or an SMS message claiming that you can earn money by simply liking YouTube videos? It is highly advisable not to respond to such communications because this is part of a major scam where fraudsters would lure in unsuspecting users with promises of easy money and then swindle them out of lakhs. This has happened with several users, and the police are on their toes to catch the culprits.
Read on to find out more about the online scam, as well as some guidelines you can keep in mind to protect yourself against such fraudulent activities.
How Do Scammers Lure In Users?
Cybercriminals tap end-to-end encrypted instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram to carry out the said scam. They’d start by dropping users a text message — from an unknown number — asking them to like some videos on YouTube, promising to pay Rs 50 per ‘like’.
These videos are usually commercial ads of global brands such as Gucci, Chanel, and similar companies. Users are asked to like those videos and share screenshots of the same on WhatsApp.
Now, once users share the screenshots, they are immediately paid the promised amount. So, if you ‘like’ one video, you will get Rs 50. If you ‘liked’ three videos, you will get Rs 150, and so on.
A 42-year-old woman, residing in Noida, reportedly paid the scammers over Rs 13 lakh, lured in by promises of higher returns, according to a report in Times of India. Apart from the first-time payment that lured in users initially, no further payments are ever made by the scammers.
When such a message was received by someone at ABP, we decided to go ahead and respond, just to see how the scam actually takes place.
Note how the contact number of the sender has the prefix ‘+7’, which is the country calling code for Russia.
Another person at ABP received a similar message, from a number with the prefix ‘+1’, which is the country calling code for the US.
Readers should also note that the opening text — “Can I have a minute of your time?” was common in both cases. So, if you do receive such texts from unknown numbers with foreign codes, it’s best to block the number right away and if possible, reach out to the cybercrime unit of your local police and flag the case.
After users share screenshots of liked YouTube videos, they are then asked to download Telegram and speak to a “receptionist” to receive their “salary”.
In some cases, users are added to Telegram groups which already have several members. Here, users are put in touch with an executive — or a “receptionist” — from the organising group, who asks users to pay a certain amount up front, promising much higher yields.
If users do pay the asked amount, that amount gets held back and the scammers ask for even more money. As per media reports, the bad actors continue to ask for more money on pretexts such as the user ‘liked’ the wrong videos and caused the organisers to lose money. As a fine, and on different pretexts, unsuspecting users are continuously asked to dole out more and more money.
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How To Protect Yourself Against Online Scams
It is understandable that promises of easy money are alluring, however, users must exercise caution and avoid responding to texts and calls from unknown numbers who promise sums of money without having to do much work.
“Cybercriminals attack human emotions and we must know how to tackle them,” former DRDO scientist OP Manocha told ABP Live. As per the co-author of the book, ‘Cyber Encounters’, there are three factors that cause users to fall victim to cybercriminals — “Greed, curiosity, and fear”.
While the “greed” aspect is self-explanatory when it comes to promises of easy money, the “curiosity” card is used by cybercriminals to lure users into clicking on malicious links, just to find out what’s on the other end of it.
Lastly, the “fear” factor is leveraged by bad actors to make users believe that they have committed some mistake and must “pay” for it. “You might get a call from someone sitting on a tree in Jamtara, asking you to complete the KYC process or your card will be blocked, and that you won’t be able to withdraw money. Malware and threats become fear-inducing, causing the person to act further out of emotions,” said Manocha.
Users can tackle these factors by being “aware, practising self-control, and by not getting impulsive or excited”.
As per Uttarakhand DGP and ‘Cyber Encounters’ co-author Ashok Kumar, “Users should be aware that one cannot get rich overnight, it takes time and effort. Things don’t come for free.”
Kumar went on to suggest that if users find themselves in such a scenario where they get such money-making deals from unknown contacts, they should not act impulsively and take five seconds to think it through. “One should not be in a hurry so that decisions aren’t taken in haste. If I give myself these five seconds and ask the right questions, I am more likely to make an informed decision,” said Kumar.
Last but definitely not the least, users are advised to reach out to the cybercrime division of the police if they do encounter such a scenario. You can also dial 1930 — the hotline number for National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, and share details.
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