The Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) informed the public to query from relevant official authorities prior to making any payments related to claiming any prizes they would be informed via online exchanges that they may have allegedly won.
Recently, the Criminal Investigation Department following complaints of a racket by over 15 locals, arrested over 25 foreign nationals, Nigerians and Ugandans who were domiciled in Sri Lanka and were working here, having come here as tourists and students, on allegations of conducting an over Rs 50 million cash related scam via social media networks and websites such as Facebook through fake posts.
The suspects had also shifted residences frequently from Malabe, Dehiwala, Mount Lavinia, Negombo and Galle. The said remitted amount has since been withdrawn and transferred to overseas accounts.
The racket involved claiming that certain items would be sent to the fleeced and swindled complainants via mail once mailing costs, Customs and insurance charges, a certain percentage of the prize as taxes and postal charges to the Ministry of Finance, had been deposited to local bank accounts, the latter controlled by the racketeers and operated by a group of locals tricked by the suspects. Such charges and costs may also include postage, freight (air or sea), Customs package clearance, parent fees, delivery or some other charge. Apart from being a cybercrime, this also constitutes financial fraud.
Senior Information Security Engineer at the SLCERT, Roshan Chandraguptha said that the scam was an advance fee scam where the victims had to make a payment upfront in order receive the gift which may even involve promises of foreign travel. He noted that some victims may not end up complaining to the Police or family, friends or relatives, out of fear of embarrassment.
“This has nothing to do with a technical or technological issue. People become friendly online, on Facebook or through electronic mail. People pretend to be friendly. They may inform the victim that they have won a valuable gift item,” he said.
He added that at the last minute, they or someone else will call the victim and say that a payment must be made in order to claim it.
“People fall for such. If they are a winner, they must go through the official channels and contact the relevant organizations. Claims should be verified. Prevention is better than the cure,” he added.