HDFC, ICICI and leading Banks to spread awareness to fight online fraud
By Neelima Shankar
Dec 20, 2007
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New Delhi: The recent money mule scamin which HDFC Bank nabbed a customer, has waken the entire banking industry. Major public and private sector banks have decided to spread awareness among their customers about such practices.

Phishing and money mules have arrived at the helm of Indian banking scenario and are threatening to defraud a whole lot of customers. The lack of sufficient details about such practices and easy money making opportunity makes the customers in India an easy target for fraudsters perpetrating such illegal acts. Though phishing involves stealing of sensitive data, becoming a money mule is very often seen by the customers as a 'job opportunity' and they do not recognize the fact that it is an illegal activity similar to money laundering.

It was decided by the apex banks that they will send emails and communicate awareness among such malpractices and make them aware. Banks will also put advisories on their website. A banker who attended a meeting held by Indian Banks' Association IBA said, "an individual acting as a money mule is breaching the law unknowingly and could be booked for money laundering."

Phishing, derived from the word fishing is an attempt to get your vital banking details by some fraudster. Usually it is an email which looks deceptively similar to what your bank sends you regularly and has a link to a 'bank's clone' website where there is a form, which has to be filled with your details.

Generally the fake e-mails have warning that your bank account has been compromised and you'll have to verify your identity to restore access. The identity can be verified by providing details like your account number, username, password, credit card number, personal identification number (PIN) etc. These emails entice you to take immediate action or threaten you with account suspension or charging a fee if you don't response. Gullible customers often fall into these traps and give their bank account and credit card details, which are then hacked by the fraudsters. This money is then routed through money mules. Here is a detailed description on the money mule process.

Awareness about such practices and staying vigilant when you read emails or log into your bank's website can go a long way in avoiding such scams. Here are few tips:

  • Usually your bank's email will never ask for any sensitive information like account passwords, credit card details, if there is any such email, check the link provided in the email and report the matter to your bank immediately.
  • The website link in fraudelent emails is usually an address which looks closely like your bank's website address but is never the same. Don't get misled with the address visible in the email but see the actual address the click is going to take you to.
  • It is always better to double check the URL or address of your bank's website correctly in your browser. A better approach will be to bookmark it in your favorite browser and use it to access your bank's website. This will prevent you from typing a wrong address and thereby landing in trouble.
  • If you find an email or website address suspicious - inform the bank. Do not open any attachments or click any links in such emails.
  • Any job offer that comes to you via an email and promises a 'Money Transfer Agent' type job, with good commissions could be an invitation to become a money mule. Verify the credentials of all such offers and before replying make sure that it is from a genuine and reputed company.

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