Freecharge used for Free Recharge of Bitcoin accounts
Nearly 100 customers of e-wallet FreeCharge lost 8,000- 10,000 across the country in cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi only to be restored later as the e-wallet’s system met with a phishing attack. The cases are now being looked at by the regional Reserve Bank of India cells, banking ombudsman and respective cyber crime police officials. The attacks happened between June and August 2016.
Phishing is an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and banking details, by conning people into believing that the attempt is being made by an official/ trusted entity.
“We had been emailing then, calling them multiple times. There was no proper helpline and we got only automated responses. We didn’t hear back at all from them. Even after the article highlighting what happened at FreeCharge, the amount was reversed with no explanation,” said complainant Anupam Agarwal, who lost 10,000 on the wallet on July 24.
FreeCharge, which has 37 million customer accounts, said in an emailed response that it started reversing transactions of up to 2.9 lakh after August 19. TOI reported on August 19 that three FreeCharge customers had lost money, while using its services. Between August 19-25 customers started receiving money back into the wallets, which FreeCharge terming then as a "goodwill gesture. “FreeCharge acknowledged that its customers lost their money as a result of a ‘phishing attack’.”
A police official in Delhi’s cyber crime cell said, “On August 24, we received a complaint from FreeCharge stating that eight of its customers had lost money totaling to 77,000. We subsequently spoke to complainants.” In what could be slightly alarming, the trail leads onto bitcoin users. Bitcoins are still viewed with suspicion in India , which is currently unregulated in the country. Complainants said that they started receiving calls from regional RBI centres between August 22-23.
According to FreeCharge, the attackers, in the first instance transferred money to bank accounts. “Then they started using the account to purchase items across different websites, including Snapdeal, ClearTrip and Vodafone, where FreeCharge wallets are accepted,” said Farheen Akhtar, head -public relations, Snapdeal, a company that has close ties with FreeCharge. After the fraudsters started buying gift cards, FreeCharge stopped permitting usage of its wallet for purchase of the same. Users of e-wallets say that these companies provide no redressal mechanism, especially when they need to be contacted on an urgent basis. While the e-wallet in question sent automated messages to customers within a few minutes, that is not as effective as banks freezing accounts real-time, when we report debit card loss.