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Behind the Digital Curtain: An Excerpt from ‘Cyber Encounters’

In this age of rapid technological advancements, our lives are intricately intertwined with the digital world. From online purchases to virtual education and personal communication to financial transactions, all of it is now possible at the click of a button and facilitated by deeply interconnected networks. With such pleasing convenience, however, comes the imminent presence of Cyber threats that can disrupt and compromise our online activities and endanger our privacy, paving the way for Cybercrimes around the world.
In this riveting book, Cyber Encounters, authors Ashok Kumar and O.P.Manocha dive into the notorious Cyberspace and bring forth tales of cybercrime based on real events.
Read this exclusive excerpt to catch a glimpse of one such story.
Cyber Encounter
Cyber Encounter || Ashok Kumar and O.P Manocha
***
The Republic of Cameroon is a small country in West Central Africa, bordered by the Republic of Congo and Nigeria. It has a population of 25 million (2.5 crore) and is popularly known as “Africa in Miniature” due to its geographical, linguistic, and cultural diversity. But what not many people know about this remote country is that many cybercrimes originate here.
It was a car accident that killed Dy Commandant Ajay. He was returning from a pilgrimage to Pauri, Uttarakhand, with his wife Madhu and two beautiful daughters, Diya and Sakshi. Madhu, her daughters and the driver of the car escaped unhurt. One month had passed since the accident and Madhu was still shocked and emotionally unstable. Diya, who was 15 years old, was Madhu’s elder daughter and a student of Class 9. After the death of her father, she had become very quiet. She neither watched television nor played online games like her classmates. Her only friend was her sister Sakshi, who was two years younger than her.
The Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in them all being forced to stay home, with classes also being held online. There was fear all around and people were dying. Even children were suffering from depression. “Mom, I don’t have any friends and no place to go. Whom shall I play with?” Diya asked Madhu. “Pihu has such an adorable beagle, why don’t you get me a dog too?”
Madhu had always been apprehensive about getting a dog. Her elder sister, Sanvi, had a three-year old female beagle, Daisy, who kept her and her daughter Pihu on their toes, and Madhu had seen her plight. Sanvi had to give Daisy a bath every week, get her groomed and make frequent visits to the vet during the monsoon, when Daisy got persistent fungal infections on her paws as she could not help playing in the garden and came back wet. And the most arduous job was to walk the dog three times a day without fail! Madhu, who was also grief-stricken due to her husband’s recent death, thought it would be a real nuisance to have a dog. Who would take care of it? So she kept procrastinating and did not pay much heed to Diya’s demand to get a dog.
One day, Madhu was sitting on the balcony with Diya when she got a call from her friend, Neha, who lived in the same society, that their neighbour’s 12-year-old daughter had died due to Covid. this was shocking. Madhu ended the call and looked at Diya with gloomy eyes. Diya asked her what was wrong, so Madhu told her about the girl. though Diya did not know her, she went quiet, her face drawn with fear. She hugged her mother and said, “Mom, are we also going to die?” this brought tears to Madhu’s eyes. She held Diya tight in her arms and said, “No, my dear, God is not so unkind.”
This one moment changed Madhu’s mind. Diya’s 15th birthday was in a fortnight. She would be going to Class 10 and would be giving the board exams next year. Diya was already under great stress and the boards would definitely add to it, Madhu thought. It was now that Madhu decided that she would give Diya a dog on her birthday.
Madhu looked up to Sanvi for advice on every little thing. She called her up and told her about her idea of buying a pup for Diya. Sanvi advised her to go in for a smaller breed as Madhu stayed in a flat and big dogs need a lot of space to move around. She suggested that she buy a cocker spaniel, which is quite a playful and loving breed. So Madhu began her search for a cocker spaniel. She sent a message on the WhatsApp groups she was a part of, asking if any cocker spaniel pup was available for sale. She also searched on Google and came across a few dog sellers whose contacts were listed on a local search engine website.
Madhu always believed that whatever information there was on the internet was authentic. The first listing on the website displayed a picture of a cute cocker spaniel. Madhu had struck gold! Little did she know that she was going to be trapped on a dummy website that offered the sale and purchase of various household goods, and even animals.
The seller had managed to get a good rating through paid reviews and had posted eye-catching pictures of the pup to secure a top position in the listings. The next day was a Sunday. Madhu was sweating as she finished preparing breakfast for the family. She switched on the air conditioner and sat down on the sofa to contact the seller on the number she had obtained from the website the previous night. she preferred contacting the seller on WhatsApp rather than calling as it provided a record of any conversation for future reference. She sent a message asking for details of the pup. She promptly got a reply from the seller, who introduced herself as Shweta.
She sent some cute pictures of the pup to Madhu, who was mesmerised. She immediately responded to Shweta, asking her to send details, including the price and availability, of the pup. Shweta told her that the pup was a purebred. Its registration with the Kennel Club of India (KCI) would be done shortly. It would cost Madhu Rs 15,000 and she would have to pay Rs 5,000 as an advance and the rest upon receiving the pup. Madhu immediately made her a payment of Rs 5,000 on GPay. Booking done, she told Diya about the pup. The girl’s happiness knew no bounds.
Two days later, on June 22, Madhu got an email with a bill of Rs 1,03,300 and the details of an SBI account into which to transfer the money. The charges included the price of the pup, COVID-handling charges, vaccination fees, feeding charges, and transport expenditure.
The mail stated that this amount would be refunded to her once the puppy was transported to Dehradun and the entire cost would be borne by the seller except for the price of the puppy. Madhu sent Shweta an enquiry about the mail and once she was convinced, she registered the account number as a beneficiary and transferred the required amount. She took a screenshot of the transaction and sent it through WhatsApp to Shweta. she got a message that the insurance process would be initiated the next day and the pup would be hers soon.
***
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