Tree Sena: A Sad Case of Identity Theft
The scenario revolving around Aarey Colony and the metro is going through a lot of ups and downs. Through the twists and turns of the judiciary, are emerging those people who have managed to keep their focus on the big picture: protecting the tree population and other life in and around the colony. One such group working out of Charkop, Kandivali is the Tree Sena, a branch of the larger Mission Green Mumbai (MGM) NGO. Through determined efforts, the Tree Sena has managed to plant over 4000 trees in the vicinity of Aarey Colony. Recently, Tree Sena went digital and launched a website of its own (www.treesena.org) … and that’s when the trouble started.
Why Tree Sena?
Understandably, an NGO depends heavily on donations to fuel itself. Digital mediums are opening up several avenues for NGOs to reach out to people. It is but natural for non-profits to hop on the wagon and start their own websites and other social channels. Tree Sena went a similar route and opened up its websites to donors and volunteers, hoping to rally their visitors to their cause. And when a payment gateway comes into picture, so do the circling sharks. Cybercriminals jumped into action and promptly setup their own website with a similar name, just a different domain (.com). The fraud website was a complete mirror of the one setup by the NGO. The intention is very apparent here: to steal visitors wanting to donate to the original NGO and divert them to the fraudulent website. That way, all the donations would directly fall into the pockets of the hackers.
Tree Sena Speaks About the Issue
“Some of our donors had landed on that website. We realised that this [is] a case of identity theft. While our project is being conducted in association with YouTuber Saiman Says, the other one is floated by some organisation called Yash Infotech,” says MGM founder Subhajit Mukharjee. Moreover, the NGO also found evidence that copycat websites for its parent company also exist. They found this out by transferring a test amount through the donation forms on these fraudulent websites, but the funds never reflected the bank accounts setup by the organisation.
“The fraud website uses the name of our organisation, mentions Tree Sena and also our logos on its website. However, it only has a landing page or a home page and a donation button/ Other mandatory information that should ideally take the user to another page like the contact page details, information about the organisation and even the social media links on their landing page don’t work at all,” Mr. Subhajit reported.
Cybercriminals have ingeniously created a website duplicate, but have kept only the donation buttons active. MGM group and the Charkop police found several business groups going by the name of Yash Infotech, thus making it harder to track down the real perpetrators of the crime. Senior Inspector Vitthal Shinde of the Charkop police force says their cyber experts are looking into the matter.
It is really unfortunate to think of the noble cause that suffered due to this identity theft. All that money could’ve been used for heroic purposes, had it been channelled to the legitimate website. For us, it puts into perspective the relevance of cyber awareness in today’s world.
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