GUWAHATI, July 3 – For a young professional, it came as a rude shock. Usmita Singh (name changed) started getting obscene phone calls on her mobile phone late at night all of a sudden. The distressed woman could not identify the voice on the phone and the caller number also kept on changing. Some of those were from PCOs in Rajasthan. As the harassment continued over a week, she finally had to change her number. It was some time before she could recall putting her cell number on her facebook account from where it was most likely collected.
For KK Das, a journalist, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that he had been offered a scholarship at UK to study in a top university. As a ‘processing fee’ he was asked to send Rs 15,000 in cash to a bank account in India. Just when he was about to hand over the money, a close friend asked him to do a check, which revealed that it was a fraud being played out on the internet.
Monalisa Goswami (not her real name) had posted some of her photos on a social networking site. Months later, her close friends told her that a few pictures were morphed to show her in indecent attire and posted in a fake account.
Such instances of abuse on social networking sites is becoming more frequent in Assam as users increase in numbers and simultaneously those with malicious intent are also growing more audacious. While some of the acts carried out on the sites are pretty harmless, others cause serious distress and some border on cyber crime.
Those acquainted with the scene say that users should be discrete in providing personal information on social networking sites and should be cautious about adding friends whom they do not know very well. Some of the account holders may not be genuine, which leaves personal information open to people willing to misuse that. Some sites also offer security settings, which many users neglect to activate.
The pain and anguish caused by acts of malicious users can linger on for months and may even lead to mental trauma. In the case of Monalisa, it took her a long time to get over the embarrassment and she also had to go for counselling.
What makes it difficult to trace offenders in such cases is the massive extent of the internet and the relative ease with which false IDs can be generated. Although the police and other agencies can trace the computer from which an ID is created, the difficulty does not diminish because it can later be used from any other machine.