Information security engineers have called on the public using the internet, electronic mail and social media accounts to be wary of fraudulent online communications involving gifts including foreign trips for the taking, lottery schemes and attempts to partner in inheritance-related matters.

The Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) noted that the public should be made aware of precautions to be taken to be safe online and thereby to prevent users from falling victim.

The Team had received over 2200, mostly social media related, complaints last year commonly involving fake Facebook accounts and as of January 31 this year, they have received 150 such complaints.

Senior Information Security Engineer at SLCERT, Roshan Chandraguptha said that since anyone could be skillfully mislead as to the truthfulness of a claim made via an online communication, one had to first ascertain and verify the authenticity and veracity of such communications by searching the internet or by using different mechanisms.

“One must use such social media net works and online applications skillfully and safely without getting into trouble. Some use it to harm and harass. Social attitudes and ethics too are important in this regard,” Chandraguptha said.

He said there are many types of cheating activities which defraud computer and internet users.

One involves foreigners living in Sri Lanka who pretend to be living in their respective countries. Accordingly, the foreigner will first inform a local through an online communication that a gift awaits him or her but that it is being held at the Customs that in turn will release it (gift) upon the payment of a Customs realization fee.

Another involves a person being informed of a prize despite not having enrolled in a lottery scheme where one has to make an upfront payment of the bank charge involved, for which one has to give his or her full name address and bank details and transfer the money.

Yet another involves the case where one is offered a foreign trip and is asked for the passport details in order to process the ticket. He will then be asked to pay a very nominal amount as the documentation fee.

Chandraguptha said that they may contact  the person during the weekend urge them to make the payment immediately to the normal office bank account instead of waiting till Monday. .

“He could hasten the process by making a payment to a personal account which they say would then be transferred to the official account,” Chandraguptha said.

In addition, Chandraguptha also said that those who indulge in such scams would encourage the unsuspecting victims to refrain from revealing this transaction to anyone citing security reasons.

“Those who attempt to defraud or scam others will employ tact. They may tell one to refrain from telling others about the money that one is about to receive until such time the amount is in one’s bank account,” Chandraguptha said.

He added that the SLCERT had been conducting awareness programmes among communities and students on these scams while also providing them with information on how they could tackle these issues. RLJ