Cyber fraud crimes are on the rise with the advent of latest Artificial Intelligence tools that can create deepfake videos. I will come to that later in this blog. Let me first discuss about several channels on YouTube which are peddling false and baseless news using thumbnails of media personalities, including myself. On Friday, the government blocked nine such YouTube channels with 83 lakh subscribers who were caught by PIB (Press Information Bureau) Fact Check Unit. They are: GTV, Bajrang Education, Aapke Guruji, BJ News, Sansani Live TV, Daily Study, Bharat Ekta News, Ab Bolega Bharat and Sarkari Yojana Official. Several of them were using thumbnails and images of TV news channels and their news anchors to mislead viewers so that they can believe all their baseless news as authentic. I was stunned on seeing thumbnails of myself and my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on these channels. Viewers had been forwarding these news believing it to be authentic. One of them, Sarkari Yojana Official had more than 29 lakh views. On November 8, it used my thumbnail image and posted a video which claimed that all schools have been closed because of some natural disaster.
Another video claimed, nearly 1,000 people have died in some natural calamity and a nationwide red alert has been sounded. All these news were fake, they had nothing to do with India TV or my show. Another YouTube channel Sansani Live TV had four lakh subscribers and more than 11 crore views. On November 4, it posted a video claiming 35,000 people died in a deadly earthquake in India. The video carried my image. Lies were being peddled using my image. There are dozens of similar YouTube channels which are misusing my images and it is not an easy job to keep track of all them. In this endeavour, I need your support.
We should all try to understand the conspiracy behind using my images to peddle fake news. Their videos are garnering millions of views because of my image. These fake news channels are trying to attack my credibility by peddling baseless news report. I am mentioning this because I consider your trust as my strength. Your support will help me in fighting such criminals. As viewers of Aap Ki Adalat and Aaj Ki Baat, you have been knowing me for the last 30 years. We have a sort of personal bonding between us. If you notice any channel on social media peddling fake news by using my name and image, please do inform me on WhatsApp and telephone. Please contact 93505 93505 or you can drop me a mail at email@example.com . We have managed to block some of these fake channels and we seek your support in catching more such culprits. I will continue to do this work with your help.
Now, let me caution you about the entry of deepfake in the world of cyber crimes. In some of the cases, fraudsters posing as senior police officers give calls to people, tell them they are under arrest, slap charges of transporting drugs, gold or US dollars, show FIRs and fake video calls with a DCP level officer wearing a police uniform, use the setup of a police office, also show some criminals being kept in a lockup, and then the game of arrest, bail and extortion will begin. In the latest incident in Ghaziabad, a 74-year-old man Arvind bought a new smart phone, downloaded some social media apps, created his profile, opened his Facebook Messenger, got a video call on WhatsApp showing a nude girl. Soon after a man claiming to be police officer rang him up, told him he was engaged in obscene sex chats, put him on a video call with an Additional Director General named Prem Prakash, who was wearing a police unform. Prem Prakash, in real life, is a senior police officer, but AI was being used to create a deepfake video. Rs 74,000 was extorted from the senior citizen. Initially, the victim did not reveal this to his family members, but later he told his daughter, Monika Sharma, who, in turn, got in touch with a lawyer. The lawyer rang up the scamsters, who initially tried to browbeat him, but later disconnected on realizing that their game was up.
In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ we showed the audio and videos of telephone calls to our viewers. Monika said, her father was so scared that he was thinking about committing suicide. DCP Ghaziabad City Nipun Agrawal said, police have traced the bank account number to which the victim had transferred money, and the IP address of the fake calls has also been traced. He promised that the scamsters will be rounded up soon. In another incident, conmen targeted a computer student Ananya in Faridabad. Ananya had bought a new laptop and was planning to go to Canada. Ananya got a call from one Ashish Sharma, posing as a Customs official, who claimed that a courier has been caught with 16 passports and 68 ATM cards. The conman transferred the call to a fake police officer in Lucknow. The fake police officer told her that there was an arrest warrant against her for earning Rs 3.8 crore from human trafficking.
The police officer transferred the call to a fake CBI official. This third con man asked her to pay up five per cent of the earnings, which came to Rs 15 lakh as bail amount. The con man told her not to disconnect her call by any means and not to reveal this to any family member. The lady, out of fear, did not disconnect the call for 17 days, managed to get Rs 2.5 lakh and sent the money to the conmen’s account. One day, the laptop speaker was on, Ananya was in the washroom, and when the con men called her name, her house maid shouted that somebody is calling Ananya. The con men soon disconnected and sent Ananya a message saying her bail has been granted and she was free. Ananya’s father said, it was their mistake that they never asked Ananya why she was spending so much time with her laptop. In the third instance, a lady working in an IT company in Noida got a call saying there was a money laundering case against her in Mumbai. The con man linked her on a video call with another posing as DCP, Crime Branch of Mumbai Police. The background was similar to that of a police station, with some prisoners sitting, a walkie talkie on the table.
The con man posing as DCP told her that a raid was conducted at the premises of a businessman Naresh Goyal, in which Rs 2 crore cash was seized, out of which Rs 20 lakh was meant as commission for the woman. The fake DCP told her that her bank account and Aadhar number wer used for transferring Rs 20 lakh. She was asked to arrange Rs 20 lakh as bail money and was threatened that she could be arrested if the money was not transferred. The victim offered to trasnfer Rs 11 lakhs. Even after transferring the money, she was kept online for 10 hours, after which she was told that her case has been settled and she is being released “digitally”. The government has asked people to be careful against cyber frauds. The Prime Minister has already described deepfake as a serious issue. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had called for stringent control measures against deepfake technology, after which guidelines have been issued to Google and YouTube users.
Google has said that all those posting synthetic videos must give a warning that it is AI-generated content. Already, in India, government is working on measures to curb digital crimes. Cyber police stations are being set up. Police staff are being given cyber-related training. Since digital technology is getting upgraded fast, fraudsters and criminals are exploring new avenues of trapping victims. The only sure-fire method to tackle such fraudsters is: public awareness. Let me make it quite clear. No police officer will give you any information on phone about any case against you. No police official will discuss warrant or threaten arrest on phone. No police officer will speak about warrant in any video call. Nor will any police officer transfer your calls to another police stations through audio or video. No police officer can discuss bail over phone. If you get such a call, know this clearly that you are being conned. The caller is himself a criminal. Instead of listening to him, disconnect your call immediately, and tell your family members and your local police about such a call. Last, but not the least: Do not be afraid. Instead of succumbing to blackmail, tell your family about any threat that come on phone. If you start fearing, the fraudsters will know that you are easy game. So, beware.
Aaj Ki Baat: Monday to Friday, 9:00 pm
India’s Number One and most followed Super Prime Time News Show ‘Aaj Ki Baat- Rajat Sharma Ke Saath’ was launched just before the 2014 General Elections. Since its inception, the show has redefining India’s super-prime time and is numerically far ahead of its contemporaries.