Kerala Police join hands with banks to combat financial fraud

By collaborating with banks, the Kerala Police’s Cyber Operations wing is organizing webinars to create awareness about various kinds of financial fraud and ways to counter it.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Apr 28, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedApr 28, 2024 | 11:07 AM

Financial fraud (Creative Commons)

In response to a concerning surge in financial fraud cases, the Kerala Police have launched a proactive initiative to educate citizens.

The police are organising a series of webinars to empower individuals with knowledge and awareness of various kinds of financial fraud and ways to counter it. The initiative will be launched in collaboration with banking institutions,

Imparting awareness could help them combat the rising tide of financial crimes, the police felt.

Also Read: Over 23,000 people in Kerala lost ₹201 crore in online fraud cases in 2023: Police

Equipping citizens

Speaking to South First, Harishankar, SP, Cyber Operations, emphasised the importance of proactive measures in safeguarding the citizens’ financial well-being.

“Financial fraud poses a significant threat to individuals and communities alike. By working closely with banking institutions and conducting awareness programs, we aim to equip citizens with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect themselves against fraudulent activities,” said Harishankar.

Kerala Police’s financial fraud awareness message

The awareness, mainly conducted through webinars, covers a wide range of topics including, common types of financial fraud, red flags, and best practices for safeguarding personal and financial information.

Additionally, the webinar programme provides a convenient platform for citizens to access valuable information from the comfort of their homes.

“When we look at the financial fraud cases reported so far in the state, the victims are majorly bank customers, who have net banking facilities and who have money in their accounts. Thus, our primary target is bank customers,” said Harishankar.

The officer said the banks would identify the attendees for the webinar and they have their criteria for selecting customers.

“Before launching this initiative, we held talks with banking institutions. It was decided that we create webinar links and send them to banks’ district-level officers. From there it will be shared to customers via branches,” added Harishankar.

Also Read: Kollam native loses over ₹40 lakh to fraudsters who posed as Mumbai Police officials

Victims associated with 10 banks

It is said that the Cyber Operations wing, which had carried out an analysis of the financial fraud cases in the state, found that the victims were associated with 10 banking institutions and had fallen prey to one of the 10 financial frauds.

“We had identified that 95 percent of the victims of financial crime are bank customers belonging to 10 banking institutions and six to seven districts contribute 90 percent of the cases,” said Harishankar.

Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Malappuram, and Kozhikode account for most of the cases, while districts like Pathanamthitta, Wayanad, and Idukki report fewer cases.

Most financial fraud cases belong to the categories of threats of illegal goods delivery (FedEx scam), investment/trading fraud, scams by gaining remote access to devices, fraud involving fake customer support, fraudulent loan apps exploiting low-income individuals, romance scams – deceptive gifts, lottery fraud/fake prize frauds, and sextortion.

Also Read: Kerala govt transfers financial fraud probe against High Rich Online Shoppe to CBI

The webinar

Harishankar said the webinar will be conducted across the state and each district will host three to four sessions.

“We had asked the banks to plan accordingly. The plan is to organise such a webinar once a week either on Friday or Saturday evening, most probably by 6 pm. We look forward to ensuring maximum participation,” said Harishankar.

Where to report financial fraud

Cyber Operations wing officials will handle the webinar of 45 minutes duration. The final 15 minutes will be set aside to clear the doubts of the participants.

It is said that the first-of-its-kind webinar organised for bank customers in Thiruvananthapuram on 17 April received positive feedback from citizens and stakeholders alike. Many commended the proactive approach taken by the Kerala Police and banking institutions.

“As financial fraud continues to evolve and adapt to technological advancements, initiatives like these serve as a vital line of defense in safeguarding the financial interests of individuals and the integrity of the banking sector,” said an HDFC Bank official.

Also Read: Kerala: ED conducts multiple raids in Kannur Urban Nidhi ‘fraud’ case

Top reported financial fraud 

According to officials, threats of illegal goods delivery have now become the most common financial fraud being reported in the state.

“This cyber fraud is related to threats involving the delivery of goods misrepresented as narcotics or illegal goods,” an official of Cyber Operations told South First.

“Scammers posing as law enforcement officers, customs officials, or representatives of courier companies use various tactics to intimate victims into believing that they are involved in criminal activity or are at risk of legal consequences unless they comply with their demands,” he said.

The official said the fraudsters usually threaten victims with legal consequences and pressure them into paying a fine or providing personal/financial details.

Also Read: AI-based deepfake fraud case: Kerala cyber police expand probe to Goa

Decline in loan app cases

“The victim will be intimidated saying that they are under virtual arrest. Scammers exploit fear to prevent victims from seeking help. But we can counter it by applying common sense,” added the official.

Meanwhile, the police stated that though the menace created by fraudulent loan apps, which promise quick loans with minimal documentation persists,  it is showing a declining trend in the state.

Some time ago, the state reported numerous cases in which people fell victim to loan apps trapping borrowers in debt cycles and leading to related suicides as scammers threatened borrowers who failed to repay.

As the state government and central government intervene to crack down on such apps, their operations are said to have decreased.

The Cyber Operations wing is expecting that through collective action and an informed citizenry, a safer and more resilient financial landscape could be created in the state.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)