What to do if a cyber fraud happens to you?

Cyber Crime has spread across the world at a very rapid pace. Although it would be wrong to say that everyone in our society knows about it, but it won’t be even wrong to suggest that every person knows about any instance of cybercrime in which either they were the victim, or their relatives or any acquaintances were. Due to these instances, we are aware, to a minimum extent, of the common practices which are adopted by cyber criminals. Also, it is not possible for a common man to know each and every way of criminals and keep himself in a safety net, as the number of ways in which such crimes can be committed as numerous. Hacking of social media accounts of various politicians, businessmen, and online portals of different banks around the globe indicates that the problem at hand is not a small one. It is to be noted that these portals and accounts are handled operated under expert supervision. When cyber criminals can find their way even through extensive security, it should not be very difficult to understand that no matter what security protocols one may be following, their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. Your privacy, private information, business related information, and personal financial information is under a persistent threat. Therefore, since you can neither possibly wrap your head around each security protocol, nor can you guarantee the effectiveness of undertaken measures, it becomes all the more important for you to know: what to do if a cyber fraud happens to you?

First things First

First of all, as soon as you get to know that you have suffered a cyber-fraud, you must immediately notify your bank. Every Bank has its toll free customer care number which is available on the official website of the Bank. You can also visit your local bank branch for complaining and notifying about the incident. According to the Reserve Bank of India (‘RBI’) Guidelines, if in such cases you have had no role to play in the commission of the crime, then you are not responsible and the bank would have to compensate you for your loss.

You must remember to notify the commission of such a fraud within 3 working days, as if reported within 7 days, the bank will only compensate up to Rs. 10,000 per unauthorized transaction. If you fail to notify the bank within a period of 7 days, then you will yourself be held liable for the loss suffered due to the unauthorized transaction.

Also, if you have registered your complaint with the toll free number, make sure to note down the complaint number which would help you in case no action is taken upon your complaint. Similarly, if you notify the bank by visiting its branch office, then remember to ask for a receipt of your application. In case the bank does not initiate any action, then you can file a complaint with the Banking Ombudsman, which is an authority established by the RBI.

What if the fraud is contributory

Even in case you have shared the OTP, any details relating to your ATM card, or your online banking password with any criminal, worry not. By notifying the bank immediately and sharing timely information about whole incident, you are increasing the chances of recovering your hard earned money. The Bank can then take steps to save the money which has outflowed from your Bank account. In spite of notifying, if any unauthorized transaction further takes place from your bank account, then the entire liability with regards to such a transaction will be on the bank as they will have to compensate for your loss.

What next?

After notifying the bank about the unauthorized transaction, you should gather all the documents which support your claim of unauthorized transaction, such as the SMS which alerted you about the debit of money, or any email which you received in this regard or the statement of your bank account. You must keep in mind that you do not make the mistake of deleting any such details from your phone as it will only weaken your claim.

If any criminal has extracted money from your account in an unauthorized way or has committed any kind of fraud with you, then your immediate action, after notifying the bank, should be to start gathering all the information relating to it. For example, if the criminal calls you and asks you to share with him an OTP to save your account from being closed, and after receiving the OTP he succeeds to withdraw money from your bank account, then you should note down the mobile number of the criminal, time when the call came, OTP which was shared, time when the OTP appeared, time when the money was debited from your account, etc.

In addition to this if you have the recording of the conversation with the criminal over the call, then that would also be helpful. You can save the above mentioned by taking screenshots on your phone. Call recording can be stored in a CD or a DVD. Thereafter, you should get your FIR registered with the Government of India portal https://www.cybercrime.gov.in/. You may also file the FIR with the nearest police station. Either way, the information gathered by you should be attached to the complaints as evidence.

A word of caution

Although you can yourself write the complaint I would strongly suggest that you should take the advice of a lawyer. A complaint written by a lawyer is better able to emphasize as to which crimes have been committed, under what sections of law the crime must be investigated, and what evidences are important. Taking a lawyer’s advice also saves you from any misguidance by the police, or any disinterest on part of the police. If violation of laws is accurately and sufficiently shown in the complaint, it becomes difficult for the police to delay/ refuse to register the FIR.

A question often raises its head and many people fear if the police would hurt the them in some way, or if the police would even register their complaint. Especially so when the cheated amount is not so big. I would suggest that no one should think that the police will cause you any kind of loss, because without any reason police cannot do any such thing. If a situation arises that the Police officer is misbehaving with you or refusing to register your FIR, then you can immediately consult a lawyer. The law provides suitable remedies to such actions by the police and will give enable justice against such any misbehavior. Your lawyer may approach higher police authorities and may even approach the Magistrate and seeking registration of an FIR in relation to the cyber fraud in question.

Further, if the Police is not following the proper procedure stated under the law for investigating the matter and is acting negligently, then on the Magistrate’s order, the whole investigation can be conducted under his supervision. The above stated actions will definitely help you recover your loss.

This article is also available in Hindi. Many thanks to Vidisha Gupta for translating this article!

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Adv. Rohit Ranjan Praveer

Rohit is a practicing advocate at Delhi. Beginning as a tech enthusiast, Rohit always had a keen interest in computer forensics and information security. Building upon these fundamentals, he has undertaken extensive research on various techno-legal topics and continues his pursuit pass on valuable information to the masses, with a zeal to build something that outlasts him.​

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