India's tryst with the internet is only just beginning. Hundreds of millions of Indians are either discovering the internet for the first time, becoming seasoned online shoppers, or doing a lot of their banking online. Still, with only a 68 percent smartphone penetration rate in the country, these are all activities that are basically in their infancy. The great big internet boom is yet to come, bringing with it unparalleled convenience, access to information, and cheaper prices.
But there are dark sides to this revolution as well.
According to the ASSOCHAM-Mahindra SSG study "Cyber and Network Security Framework", the number of cybercrimes in India will more than double from 149,254 today to 300,000 by 2015. Moreover, many of those crimes apparently do not originate within the country. "What is causing even more concern is that the origin of these crimes is widely based abroad in countries including China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Algeria, among others," DS Rawat, secretary general of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM), said while releasing the study.
This is a considerable uptick in online fraud, considering that the years 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 registered 13,301, 22,060, 71,780, and 62,189 incidents, respectively, according to the reports.
There is a straightforward reason for this trend. While online banking has increasingly attracted the middle class and younger audiences, phishing attacks have apparently also kept pace with this trend so much so that India ranks third after Japan and the US in terms of countries most affected by online banking malware during 2014, according to the report.
What are the most alluring scams popular amongst online con artists in the country? Apparently, the venerable Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been a popular bait to tempt those who yearn to get rich quick in India (read: Most of us). One hapless victim received an email that stated that the RBI was offering to wire $12 million to the receiver's personal account. All that was needed was the individual's bank account number, bank name, and the branch, and a deposit of around $33 to claim the funds.
Those who are still chafing about British rule in India were probably elated to see another (fake) offer:
"The Foreign Exchange Transfer Department of Reserve Bank of India has decided to bring to your attention that you were listed as a beneficiary in the recent schedule for payment of outstanding debts incurred by the British government, pending since 2007 to 2012. According to your file record with your email address, your payment is categorized as: lottery/inheritance/unpaid contract funds/undelivered lottery fund."
The bogus offer on hand was a tantalising $1 million.
These may seem to be outlandish requests that only the dimwitted would fall prey to, but the human desire to get rich quickly is a globally ubiquitous and cross-cultural one, and will only grow in a globalising world where income differences between the rich and poor are accentuated and easily visible.
In other words, India will undoubtedly see more and more of these in varying degrees of guile and complexity, which is not a good omen to the millions hoping to use the internet for basic transactions that can improve the quality of their lives.