Investors lose money to scammers who used international company logo on website
In addition to claiming to have linked with major e-commerce brands, the company’s website also used the CJ Affiliate logo from the web, to gain legitimacy with Indian investors.
In May 2021, Irshad from Ernakulam in Kerala invested 5,000 rupees, in what he believed to be an investment program presented to him by a friend. The program promised investors 5% to 25% returns on their investments and even rolled out an app. Irshad trusted the website after seeing the CJ Affiliate logo on it and assumed it was an affiliate marketing company as well. Affiliate marketing is a system in which a person is paid a commission by a retailer when traffic is directed to them or sales are made through the referral of the person. CJ Affiliate, based in the United States, is a well-known online advertising company.
However, on August 24, the website went missing and customer support was unresponsive. A puzzled Irshad contacted the WhatsApp affiliate marketing group but found no response. “I invested because they had the logo of a well-known affiliate marketing company on their website,” says the 23-year-old, who added he would not press charges. .
Irshad earns 5,000 rupees a month by working nine hours a day as an assistant to a chartered accountant. “I don’t have the time or the money to take care of a police case,” he says. He says he was tricked by the website’s customer service into believing that the platform even had ties to Amazon India.
In addition to claiming to have linked with major e-commerce brands, the website also used the CJ Affiliate logo to gain legitimacy with Indian investors. In fact, to celebrate the 1 lakh registrations on their website, the website even held a three-day celebration event on August 22 where users could ‘top up’ (invest) amounts ranging from Rs 500 to 10,000. Rs and earn Rs 50 as a reward. In September, the website was down and customer support was unresponsive.
Akanksha Sinha, a 21-year-old from Mumbai who lost Rs 50,000 via the same investment scam, approached Mumbai Cybercrime Police with a complaint. The aspiring model, who is a social media influencer, first learned about the investment program in January through a family friend promoting it. The family friend, however, warned her not to invest huge sums of money. “The promoters would hold meetings on Zoom urging people to invest but advising people against investing large sums of money,” Akanksha said, asking other investors who were defrauded to file a complaint. “But a lot of people are not ready because their losses are small,” she adds.
Potential investors were also reportedly approached via WhatsApp using fake phone numbers. “These fraudsters are trying to stay under the police radar by collecting money in small amounts but in large volumes. It is also common practice among crooks to use well-known brand names to gain legitimacy, ”says Sandeep Sahoo, director of the Save Them Foundation, a team of cybersecurity researchers and criminologists investigating several scams in Canada. India.
“The numbers they use will mainly be those of people whose devices have been hacked but are not yet registered on WhatsApp,” he adds.
Read: TN man loses over Rs 1.7 lakh over fake crypto app advertised on Instagram
The SaveThem India Foundation looked at the transactions victims made through UPI payments and found that the funds were received by several companies based in Bangalore. and the directors of these companies did not file Form DIR-3 with the KYC to obtain Director Identification Numbers (DINs) for the Company Director. Most of these companies were incorporated and had been in operation for less than five months, ”he said.
It says to observe the domain extension used to register the website. “Website domain extension matters a lot, websites with .in, .io, .com, .org are certified websites hosted by domain providers like godaddy for example. But crooks use free domain extensions like .cz, .tf or .sg, these are random domains. They were supposed to give people the option to host their own websites for free, but scammers are using them for their purposes, ”Sandeep said.
It is always advisable to invest in known investment instruments such as stocks or debt funds, explains the technician. “Follow well-known investment instruments such as stocks or debt or mutual funds or even known cryptocurrencies. But any investment decision requires researching and collecting information from multiple sources before making a decision. If someone says you can make a quick buck in a short period of time, it’s probably a scam, ”he warns.