Thursday, January 20, 2022
HomeCyber CrimeChinese Part-Time Job SMS Scams: An Investigative Report By A Victim

Chinese Part-Time Job SMS Scams: An Investigative Report By A Victim

This year, we have all received vague SMS messages promising daily salaries ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 20000. These are all part of a scam run by an international syndicate operating from Mainland China or Hong Kong. And these are all Ponzi schemes- people end up losing more than gaining money. The Ponzi schemes have eroded crores of rupees from Indians. All of them run on the same major principle- people make a deposit and initially get money. But that money comes from subsequent depositors, not from the source the scheme claims. Very soon (a day, a week, a month, or even six months), the structure collapses, and people end up losing money. There are four variations of this scam-

Fraudulent Job Scam SMS Being Sent By Conmen To Cheat People.
  • Gambling– The perpetrators claim that they have developed a software that has hacked certain gambling sites (like CCGames or Royal999win). Because of the hacked software, the user will consistently win the gambling games, and earn money for a lifetime. The snag here is that in gambling, for someone to win, someone else has to lose- else, where will the money come from? And no reputed gambling site will be that insecure to allow a cheating software to beat their system. A few people can analyze this, but most Indians do not have strong analytical abilities. In reality, the whole thing is just a Ponzi scheme. The so-called software ‘makes’ money for some time. And then the site shuts down, and people lose their deposits.
  • High-Interest Projects- These sites misrepresent themselves as being products of reputed financial organizations like Fidelity, Carlyle, Prudential, and others. They offer a very high-interest rate on vague projects- as much as 3% per day. And as expected, it eventually shuts down. People with financial literacy can analyze this, but not many people are educated on those lines.
  • Rental- This involves renting something of value in return for a regular stream of income. There are many variations to this story- that thing can be a chicken farm, fish pond, a flower garden, a hotel room, a parking space, electronic equipment, and many more. The most famous scam in this category was the Powerbank scam, where people supposedly took some battery-charging equipment for rent, with the users paying a regular amount in return. Of course, no equipment actually existed, and it was just another Ponzi scheme. The amount lost by Indians is estimated to be Rs. 150 crore in the Powerbank scam and related frauds[1].

These days, a new scam is doing the rounds- New Mobile Media (NMM). It is has a very ridiculous marketing pitch about taking on rent certain ‘Promotion Devices’ for brand advertisements. It claims to be from AT&T and was founded by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore. Except that no such ‘Promotion Device’ has been invented, the AT&T site does not talk about NMM and neither does any business news. Moore and Noyce are the pioneers of the semiconductor industry. Yet, the blatant misrepresentation by NMM is being overlooked by all the agents/promoters. What makes NMM different is its offline reach- in-person seminars and parties are being conducted regularly in different cities. This is evident from the ‘official’ Telegram and YouTube channels[2]. Many people have been roped in, and eventually many will end up losing money.

  • Order Grabbing- This is perhaps the most deceptive of all the methods. It can mislead people who do not know about it. The sites/apps claim to be partners of e-commerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart, and eBay. The user has to perform ‘tasks’- make a ‘virtual’ purchase of products in their platform. First, the user pays for the product order, which supposedly increases sales ranks in the e-commerce platform, then the order gets automatically cancelled, and finally, the user gets back both the product price and a commission. What product gets ordered is supposedly allocated by the system on a random basis. Users make an initial deposit and at first, the products that need to be ‘ordered’ are low in price. After getting some commissions, the system starts asking the user to ‘purchase’ very high-priced goods. The user has no option but to pay the deficit amount, else all his/her investment remains stuck. The agents of these sites are good at falsely convincing the users that the investment will return. But in reality, no merchant engages with such sites, and no money is made from these virtual orders. People initially make money from the deposits of subsequent users, and like any Ponzi scheme, this eventually collapses.

Too many sites (that are clones of each other) offer order-grabbing schemes, and these mostly last three months. Nowadays, these sites have ridiculous URLs like j379.com, 86759.com, ebay1008.com, abc1000125.com- which should make anyone suspicious. These sites are also poorly designed with horrible UI/UX. But in the initial days, there were sites like janisa-job.com, which looked had well-designed brand elements. I have lost about Rs. 200000 to that one. There were red flags, which were not initially apparent. One red flag was my Team Lead continually asking me to invite more people (which I did not). Has ever an Engineer been asked to get more people to do the same job? As time progressed, I was already invested too deep- and I decided to continue because of the sunk-cost fallacy. The site shut down, and I lost my investment.

I have dug deep into this scam and discovered a few things. It was only a month after Janisa Jobs shut down did I realize that the perpetrators were not Indians. All the messaging done to my Team Lead was done through WhatsApp. I tried calling him through a normal phone, and h never picked up the call- despite having texted through the same number just a minute back. It was only a month after I lost money that I realized the number belonged to a farmer who had no idea of what was going on. His number had been hacked by someone else to be used for WhatsApp messaging.

I ket getting SMS messages promising astronomically high salaries. Each contained a WhatsApp or Telegram link to talk to some agent. In each case, the agent gave a reply that was taken from a pre-prepared script. In some cases, the agents even replied in Mandarin or had Mandarin WhatsApp status. That led me to the suspicion that a Chinese syndicate is involved in the scam. I once tried baiting an agent into writing in Hindi. He could not write Hindi in the Roman script like most of us can. His Hindi (in Devnagari) was obviously done using a translation software and was grammatically wrong. He used the word ‘Rajdhani’ for Capital instead of ‘Poonji’! In finance, Capital means money. And finally, I did a WhoIs check on the sites. They were registered in different locations- Hong Kong, Japan, or even in the USA. The website host can be anywhere on the planet. Some of the sites had apps in the Google Playstore. The name of the developer was Chinese. And finally, I asked an agent (of a site about to get shut down) about his identity. He boasted about how he has stolen money from Indians.

This is an organized attack by International forces on the Indian economy- technically an act of war. This scam has also happened in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Phillippines with the same modus operandi[3]. Since this is such a serious issue, it should be investigated by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Some suggestions- The perpetrators may be Chinese, but a crime of such scale cannot happen without Indian agents. To start, one should investigate-

  • The phone numbers- Some people provided the Syndicated numbers for bulk SMSes and the local WhatsApp numbers. Pursue that line of investigation.
  • The accounts- Many fake shell companies were registered for UPI transactions. Find out the people who registered the companies and the people who were managing the bank accounts. Each site uses multiple companies and accounts for transactions. Janisa Job did transactions through Pooh Technologies and Rajkov Technologies- both registered by the same people (Aman Raj and Aman Priyadarshi, names likely to be fake) at the same Gurgaon office[4]. Investigate these companies with the RoC. The UPI ID for transactions happened through an ID called sup2@icici and dhinesh318@ybl. Investigate all accounts where a high number of daily transactions are happening. Ultimately, the money is being sent to China. Investigate accounts that have sent large amounts to China and check their business licenses.
  • The influencers- There are Telegram, Instagram, and YouTube channels that relentlessly promote these Ponzi schemes[5-7]. The people behind them are easy to trace. Summon them and then interrogate them. They may know more about this scam than the rest of us.

References-

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/gadgets-news/these-are-the-3-investment-scam-apps-busted-by-delhi-police-heres-how-to-stay-safe-from-such-apps/articleshow/83371454.cms

[2] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQdPfjwsl5pHlb38ngZ2rfA

[3] https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1520290/cyber-criminals-run-rampant-via-sms-prey-on-filipinos-in-need-of-jobs

[4] https://www.zaubacorp.com/company/POOH-TECHNOLOGIES-PRIVATE-LIMITED/U72200HR2021PTC092586

[5] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjUGeLTrHeFsWIy1c90gr1g

[6] https://www.youtube.com/c/EarningTime1

[7] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv9wvEdd4Q95VGQzIqGtxvg

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