FIA’s response to upsurge in online scams deemed slow

1,363 cases of financial fraud have been registered in 2021


Muhammad Ilyas November 23, 2021

LAHORE:

With people forced to stay at home due to virus-related restrictions, the superspreader gave life to online businesses and along with them came the scams.

The Express Tribune learned from Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) sources, that under the guise of advance payments, sums are received from naive people on social media through Easypaisa, the mobile payment application, and after that either the goods do not arrive and even if they do, the quality is very low.

When the customers who were wronged, contact the sellers they are met with unattended calls or blocked numbers. In Lahore alone, the FIA Cyber Crime Lahore Circle has registered a total of 1,363 cases of financial fraud in 2021 so far - an uptick from the 1,203 reported cases in the previous year.

Amongst those seeking remedy for fraud, is Shazia, a resident of Punjab’s capital. Shazia was taken aback by the clothes she saw on her social media and placed an order for them. “After I had paid the courier for the clothes, I opened the package and what I had seen online and what I received were two different things,” she said. Shazia tried contacting the customer service numbers that had been provided to return the clothes she had received but to no avail.

Read FIA launches crackdown against illegal currency businesses

Mohammad Adnan, also a resident of Lahore, fell prey to a different kind of scam than the false advertising one Shazia fell to. Adnan saw a job posting while scrolling through his social media applications on his phone, which read that if he applied and paid a Rs 20,000 application fee, he would be entitled to an online job that paid in dollars. Having filled the application, the job provider asked for the money through Easypaisa.

After Adnan had transferred the money, he did not hear back from anyone. “I tried calling the person who I had sent the money to but my number was blocked,” he said. Adnan informed The Express Tribune that he went to the police to register a case but was told that such crimes fell under the purview of the FIA. “I reported it to the FIA and ever since then there has been no progress over the case,” he lamented.

Abdullah Malik, a lawyer based in the provincial capital, when asked why online fraud was on the rise, told The Express Tribune that the main reason for an upsurge in social media scams is not only the ignorance of gullible customers but the law enforcement agencies lack of expertise in dealing with such cases. “Unfortunately, the conviction rate for such crimes is less than one percent and the laws we use to control or punish cybercrime are inadequate,” said Malik.

FIA Director Cyber Crime Babar Bakht Qureshi, acknowledging the increase in cases of cybercrime, stated that a lot of work was being done by the department and every effort was being made to control instances of online scams. “Our investigation techniques are based on modern methods and we have rounded up a few criminals in recent times. To aid the people we have started registering complaints online and will ensure speedy justice,” Qureshi informed The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2021.

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