New Delhi, February 24 : Cyber-security researchers on Friday said they have uncovered a widespread scam in India that involves the use of fake customer care numbers to defraud consumers. Cybercriminals Distributing Malware Via Facebook Offering Fake Desktop Version of ChatGPT, Stealing Social Users' Media Credentials: Researchers.

The scam involves creating fake customer care numbers for popular brands and posting them online, tricking unsuspecting consumers into calling these numbers for assistance. Google Feature Update: Tech Giant Launches AI-Powered Magic Eraser Tool for One Subscribers and All Pixel Users.

According to the team from cyber-security firm CloudSEK, to project an air of legitimacy, scammers often include brief descriptions and links along with the fake care numbers, on social media posts.

A closer look at this content revealed that the embedded links redirect users to fake domains and fake Whatsapp or Telegram accounts. CloudSEK XVigil's fake customer care module came across 31,179 such fraudulent numbers in 2022.

Out of this, 56 per cent were Indian numbers, while the rest were non-Indian. Interestingly, 80 per cent of the Indian numbers were found to be valid and still operational, said the report.

"The use of fake customer care numbers is a widespread scam in the country targeting multiple brands and affecting thousands of people each year," said Vikas Kundu, Cyber intelligence analyst, CloudSEK. The research shows that these scams are often done by circulating fake mobile numbers through social media, blogs, or websites.

"Unwary users looking for genuine customer care numbers end up dialling these and get defrauded. We urge consumers to only use the official customer care numbers provided by the brand and to remain vigilant against potential scams," Kundu added.

West Bengal, where 23 per cent of the fake customer care numbers are registered, emerged as the most prominent hub, with Kolkata being the centre of many large-scale operations. West Bengal is followed by Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, which account for 9.3 per cent each.

"To look genuine, the scammers also try to impersonate certain aspects of genuine entities like their name, their logo, similar-sounding domains, etc. This is done to establish trust with the users and then trick them," said the report.

The entities belonging to the banking and finance sector were the most targeted via content on the source domains, followed by telecommunications and healthcare, it added.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 24, 2023 01:36 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website