MUMBAI: The city has seen a sharp rise in job or task scams this year with scammers "taking advantage of the cost-of-living crisis and targeting people looking to supplement their income". The most common modus operandi involves rewarding victims per task, gaining their trust and finally luring them to invest a certain sum in the company to ensure they keep earning more.
The Mumbai cyber crime report shows the scam numbers multiplied in the first 10 months of 2023 with 362 people falling prey to it compared with 119 and 106 in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
The report said city police have managed to solve just 51 of the 362 cases in 2023. The detection rate was a meagre 10.9% in 2021 which dropped to 5.7% in 2022. A total of 170 accused were arrested between 2021 and 2023, including 99 held this year.
A police official said these scams usually begin with an unsolicited message, most commonly on WhatsApp or Telegram, offering a job opportunity. It offers a work-from-home option, flexible hours and requires no experience. Some victims may have previously filled applications on duplicate portals of legitimate job websites and so such messages may not be unexpected.
In September, MIDC police arrested six persons in a task or part-time job fraud in which a 27-year-old account manager was duped of Rs 32,000. After scanning at least 14 mobile phones, nine SIM cards and gathering details of 12 bank accounts, police found that the six arrested from Palghar district were part of an online fraud racket operated by a mastermind based in Dubai.
In July, a 19-year-old final-year BCom student became the latest victim of the fraud after he lost Rs 2.7 lakh; he had saved it up from his pocket money over 2.5 years for any emergency. He received a message on his WhatsApp number with a message that read: "I am from HR of a Media Company. You can earn Rs3000 to Rs30000 per day".
The scammers first asked him to complete a task of searching for a photograph. Once done, he received Rs 150 into his bank account, said a Kherwadi police official.
A senior IPS officer said, "The victim is initially assigned simple tasks such as liking YouTube videos, rating them, or giving reviews for a small commission. Next, the fraudster encourages the victim to do bigger tasks and invest to earn higher returns." Cyber expert Ritesh Bhatia said, "Fraudsters employ enticing tactics, offering individuals a quick reward of Rs 150-200 in a matter of seconds."