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Amid Sri Lanka’s Soaring Living Costs, Cyber Frauds and Scams Pose Heightened Threats, Warns SLCERT

In the face of escalating living expenses in the country, the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) has sounded the alarm over a surge in scams and cyber frauds. As more individuals find themselves grappling with financial strain, there is a growing susceptibility to schemes promising quick monetary gains, cautioned the SLCERT.

According to Senior Information Security Engineer Charuka Damunupola of SLCERT, numerous incidents involving social media platforms, notably Facebook (now known as Meta) and Messenger, have been reported. Additionally, there’s a concerning trend of individuals falling prey to pyramid schemes.

Recent reports from Facebook highlight instances where scammers send ‘friend requests’ to users, subsequently coercing them to vote in various competitions. Shockingly, these requests often originate from individuals already listed as friends on the victim’s Facebook profile, revealed Damunupola.

The modus operandi typically involves requesting the recipient to send a four-digit code as a vote for the competition. Unbeknownst to the victim, this code serves as a One Time Password (OTP), typically used for security measures such as password changes. Once the OTP is provided, the scammers gain control of the victim’s Facebook account, leading to unauthorized access and potential exploitation.

In response, Damunupola urged the public not to disclose OTP codes to anyone under any circumstances.

Furthermore, Damunupola disclosed another prevalent scam involving messaging platforms, wherein individuals are duped into providing clear copies of their National Identity Card (NIC), Sri Lanka passport information pages, and driving licenses, including their signatures. These details are then exploited to issue fraudulent SIM cards offering purportedly unlimited calling and data benefits.

SLCERT’s investigations revealed instances where victims, having unwittingly shared personal identification details, fell prey to criminal exploitation. Perpetrators utilized these stolen credentials to engage in illicit activities, including opening fraudulent bank accounts and conducting illegal financial transactions.

Despite receiving complaints, investigations are often hindered by the operation of fake accounts from various foreign locations, making it challenging to trace perpetrators, lamented Damunupola. Consequently, many cases are referred to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for further action.

The surge in cybercrime is evident, with seven internet scam incidents reported this month alone, following 41 cases in February. Various scams, including OTP scams and online job frauds, have plagued victims since January.

A recent scam involves a request to pay Rs.99 for redirecting a misdelivered parcel through an online payment portal. Victims are directed to a webpage resembling the Sri Lanka Postal Department, where they unwittingly disclose their credit card details, falling victim to identity theft and financial loss.

To combat these threats, Damunupola reiterated the importance of safeguarding OTPs, personal identification details, bank accounts, and credit card information from unknown entities. He also advised against investing in pyramid schemes, often promoted through YouTube videos.

Meanwhile, the CID and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) have launched separate investigations into an alleged fraud amounting to approximately Rs. 8 billion. The suspects, a husband and wife duo, are accused of deceiving over 22,000 individuals nationwide under the guise of establishing a trading community. Initial CID probes revealed that the scheme purported to benefit the country by distributing educational packages while promising financial gains, ultimately leaving victims in financial ruin. Source –

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