Many senior lawyers of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court have been getting fraudulent WhatsApp messages for the last one month asking them to purchase Amazon gift cards through a link forwarded on their numbers.
The unidentified conman sending these messages has introduced himself as Chief Justice of the Allahabad high court Justice Rajesh Bindal. Even profile picture on his WhatsApp has the picture of the chief justice.
As most of the lawyers do not have personal number of the chief justice saved in the contact list of their cell phones, they were initially caught unawares when the fraudster forwarded messages on their WhatsApp numbers introducing himself as the chief justice.
Bulbul Godiyal , senior advocate and former additional advocate general of the state government, is among the senior lawyers who have received such WhatsApp messages from the fraudster. She has lodged an FIR with Vibhuti Khand police station in this connection.
“At around 7.40am on July 25, I got a message on my WhatsApp number. The person introduced himself as the chief justice when I asked him about his identity,” said Godiyal. “As chief justice’s number was not saved in the contact list of my cell phone, I initially thought the person was the chief justice.”
“As I am also secretary of mediation and conciliation organising committee of the Lucknow high court, I thought the chief justice wanted to know something related to my work,” she added. “But the moment the person at other end started messaging about Amazon gift cards, I realised he was a fraudster,” Godiyal said.
Superintendent of police (SP), cybercrime, Lucknow, Triveni Singh said a probe into the matter was in progress. “An FIR has been lodged with Vibhuti Khand police station. After initial investigation, the cell number from which WhatsApp messages were being sent has been located in Rajasthan,” Singh added.
Jaideep Mathur, senior lawyer, also received messages of financial fraud. “These are obviously fake messages. The only thing we should do is block and report such messages on WhatsApp. This is what I have done,” said Mathur.
Another senior lawyer Desh Deepak Chopra, who also received such messages, said, “It was a fake message in the name of the chief justice. The sender also had a profile picture of the chief justice on his WhatsApp number. I have reported the matter to the OSD of the high court,” said Chopra. “When I called back on the number, it was an office somewhere in Maharashtra,” he added.
Several other senior advocates of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court too have received WhatsApp messages of financial fraud. The Lucknow high court administration has been apprised about the issue.
As per SP, cybercrime, Lucknow, Triveni Singh, this new trend has surfaced in the past few months wherein fraudsters are using different tricks by sending WhatsApp messages to prominent people, including senior lawyers and bureaucrats. He said under this fraud messages and links are sent using somebody else’s profile pictures on WhatsApp. “In some cases, users WhatsApp number is hacked by making them dial a certain number to improve their mobile network connectivity,” he said.
“The mobile is put on call forwarding mode and the call starts getting forwarded on fraudsters’ numbers and through which they easily hack WhatsApp number of mobile users by getting OTP on their numbers through voice calls and start misusing it by sending messages and demanding money from their contact lists,” he added. The SP said several such incidents had been reported and two separate cases by senior bureaucrats were registered with cybercrime police station recently.
He said the cybercrime team was working on the cases and discovered that such frauds were operated from two places—Jamtara in Jharkhand and Mewat area on Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura, Rajasthan and Haryana’s triangular border. He said the cybercrime cell was working to unearth the nexus of fraudsters but the trend would end when more and more people get aware about it and do not fall into their trap.