Inventive fraud using Google search results and JustDial!

This is an entirely remarkable public notice! It showcases how crooks understand modern technology in sophisticated ways to fool gullible people!

How did the said mobile number end up being listed in a Google search for EPFO Bandra? That’s something only Google can answer, and EPFO, through the police is asking that to Google! There’s also a note in a news report on this issue that the fraudster, Deepak Sharma, had listed his number as EPFO Bandra contact on JustDial too! (“We have also sent details to Google’s office to know who uploaded the cell phone number on a phone search directory [Just Dial]” —source)

But imagine how we search for contact numbers earlier: first, it was the yellow pages. Then we searched them on official websites (like the EPFO website). But that’s too much effort in today’s attention deficit times, so we had local search firms like JustDial and AskLaila filling that gap. Finally, we simply Google and trust what comes up as Google’s recommended result adjacent to the search, on the right (or on top, in mobile search)!

Even more interesting is the fact that the EPFO searched for that number on Truecaller to figure who owns that number! It is clear that they have done their homework to release this ad! Interesting times!

On a related note, 3 months ago, I took this call, assuming HDFC would not waste my time since they’ve paid Truecaller to not let the call fall into the ‘Spam’ bucket. It was yet another, “Based on your home loan repayment, you are eligible for a personal loan of…”. How banks waste valuable access to people!

I wrote about it online, on Twitter and LinkedIn, tagging both HDFC Bank and Truecaller. HDFC’s first response was truly problematic.

To say that they cannot and will not do anything about someone (with a visible number) impersonating an HDFC Bank Relationship Manager and contacting their customers directly, under the ‘seemingly official’ garb of ‘Priority’ feature within Truecaller is dark humor. It should ideally ring alarm bells in their system, no?

Then, it took the founder of Truecaller to set things right, in style and so authoritatively!

That changed HDFC Bank’s stand too!

The point, though, is that someone had found a way to get a priority tag via HDFC’s system, into the Truecaller system. And can use that official-looking garb to potentially fool people! Sounds similar to the EPFO ad?