Rampant Internet Fraud

July 20, 2019

In response to the writer’s column on Saturday 22ndof June 2019, highlighting an International  “Global Pyramid Lottery Fraud” operating from Los Angeles, USA, an avid reader of  the column responded from Melbourne, Australia, with a picture of two dogs in conversation, the caption of which  said, “ On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog”.This of course, acts as a very good reminder to the society  as ‘people could never trust the unknown person on the other end of  the Internet, Social Media and email ( unless the other party is well known to you), who sends various kinds of information to us on a daily basis.          

While pondering about this message, the writer received another WhatsApp message from a close friend in Colombo (ES) about an experience he has encountered, only a few days ago, which should act as  an eye opener to all  those who hold bank accounts.

First and foremost, ‘ES’ paused a simple question as to what one should do, if  one finds out  about an unfamiliar credit in one’s bank statement? The answer to this question is twofold. Primarily, if someone  does not have the ‘Internet  and online banking facility,’one is compelled to wait until  one’s bank statement arrives by post  at the end of each month! On receipt of the statement  and noticing an unfamiliar debit/credit in his/her statement  one might conclude that due to a mental aberration of one of the members of staff at the bank, a human error may have caused the erroneous entry in the account. Also, the bank  must have recognised  their folly & it had been balanced with an automatic  reversal  of either a debit/credit entry and  the matter would have ended there and then. By the  time the monthly statement  arrived by post to one’s home address  everything had been rectified and the account remained quite in order , with all the credits and debits perfectly harmonising  with each entry in the  monthly statement. So, no worries !

However, ‘ESs’ experience is different to any of the above, because if there is  anyone like ES  who happens to be the type to dabble on the internet, quite frequently and particularly who spends time on ‘Internet’ banking’ out of curiosity to monitor one’s bank statement , one would straightaway be able to detect any unfamiliar entry either debit or credit in one’s statement ‘on line.’ When such errors are detected, the first thing one’s reflex action  would  be  to phone the bank immediately and discuss about this ‘unusual credit/debit’appearing in the  account. It is only those who are with an illusory  or warped mind will be tempted to utilise that money, by taking an enormous risk, with the firm belief that the bank might forget the error as thousands of transactions and entries are passing through the system on a daily basis, and  unless a client who was expecting a payment to his/her  account makes enquiries about it

ES Experience

The story behind ES’s experience is totally different. Last week, quite late in the evening, well after the official banking hours, he received a cell phone message (sms) indicating that a credit deposit of Rs.82,000  was paid into his account, under reference ‘J002’. Since it was late evening, he decided to ring up the bank on the following morning to find out what that entry was all about ! However, in the meanwhile, he received  a telephone call “from the  inland revenue Department’  and advised ES that  “the Inland Revenue Department had erroneously deposited Rs.82,000 to his bank account as a “VAT Return,” quoting the same reference number as ‘J002.’The so-called officer from ‘the Inland Revenue Department’ wanted ES  to reverse this payment first thing in the morning explaining that  the actual recipient  should have been the “TLB Towers”.

“This so-called Inland Revenue Department,’ followed up the telephone conversation with a facsimile message on an “Officiallooking documentrevealing all the relevant information, and quoting their bank coordinates too to refund the money. On the following morning, the first thing ‘ES’ did was to check his account  on the Internet to ensure that the credit of Rs.82,000  was appearing in his bank account (statement)! However, out his gut feeling he decided to double check with his bank  prior to reversing Rs.82000 to the ‘Bank Coordinates sent by this so-called Inland Revenue Department’. Much to his shock and disbelief the Bank could not identify where the deposit of Rs.82,000 had been generated from and how it ended up in ES’s account !

Presence of Mind

 Upon hearing this perplexing and mysterious news about the credit concerning Rs.82,000, ‘ES’ immediately  advised the bank to transfer the funds to the ‘Risk/Fraud’Division  of the CID explaining everything in detail to the Bank Manager. After a short spell of  Bank reporting to the Risk/Fraud Division, CID investigators phoned ‘ES’ to advise him that it had been a scam, and the Bank Account where the money was transferred  from was a personal account with a zero-credit balance and interestingly, the particular cheque paid to ES’s account for. Rs.82,000 was a stolen cheque, and  it would certainly  have been rejected by the concerned bank to pay. It was a stroke of fortune that ES  had the presence of mind to advise the bank to transfer the money to the CID Risk/Fraud Division, as otherwise, had he transferred, without taking due care to the ‘ bogus account of Inland Revenue’ , ES would have lost Rs.82,000 within seconds!                  

ES wants his experience to be shared as much as possible among  the general public with a warning that various scams are taking place in  Sri Lanka currently, and many in the form of either Marketing or other Representatives from Sri Lanka Telecom, Water Board, Electricity Board, Municipal Councils etc., seem to appear on peoples’ doorsteps!


On Line Internet financial frauds are on the increase worldwide on a daily basis. In Sri Lanka  the Computer Emergency Readiness Team Coordination Centre (SLCERT CC) records thousands of complaints in relation to financial frauds in this country, including complaints on emails and ‘ fake account’ crimes. In view of this rapid  ‘Internet Epidemic’in the country, Ministry of Finance in Sri Lanka appears to be working in tandem with  the Financial Task Force ( FATF) on an onslaught campaign to eliminate the Internet Financial Crimes. Certainly, it is going to be a yeoman task because there is no adequate impending law ‘to regulate on line privacy, except to protect privacy on certain electronic  communications intercepted by unauthorised use and disclosure.’ Therefore, one may easily conclude that by the time laws and regulations become effective, it would have reach a stage where  one could say ‘the horse had bolted when the stable door closed’.With ever expanding facilities and momentum with online transactions, both buying and selling particularly which are taking place from the comfort of a sitting room at home or  from an office behind a computer, email abuse in the form of text messages, emails  on pyramid schemes and lotteries, as highlighted in writer’s column on Saturday 22 June 2019 appearing on  FB are becoming widespread and contagious on a daily basis

pic Credit: Internet and google pics

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