Phone banking fraud hits thousands; tricksters deal Rs 12,000-cr blow

For Lokesh Kardam, a 33-year-old Noida driver, phone banking will never be the same again. Some weeks ago, he got a call from an unknown person claiming to be a bank officer, who told Kardam his ATM card had been blocked. To unblock it, he immediately needed to disclose his card number and the three-digit CVV, or card verification value, figure at the back of the card.

A worried Kardam parked his car, took out his debit card and read out all details. Seconds later, he got another call asking him read out a six-digit OTP, or one time password, he had received as a text message. In a span of a few minutes, an unsuspecting Kardam read out three unique OTPs to the caller.

“Within seconds, I realised Rs 22,000 had been spent from my account,” Kardam, the main bread-winner for a family of seven, recounted in a choked voice.

Welcome to the world of vishing, or voice phishing, a technique used to trick gullible customers to part with confidential personal banking details. Vishing uses voice calls to steal identities and financial information. Such “vishing attacks” are designed to secure financial information in a short span by instilling fear in individuals. These calls are difficult to trace because they primarily ride through the internet.

For many Indians like Kardam, financial inclusion has also been an unpleasant introduction to the dark underbelly of hi-tech banking frauds. People commonly receive “phishing” mails where criminals create e-mails and web sites that closely resemble those of legitimate companies seeking individual banking information.