Ministry of Home Affairs cautions on rising gaming app frauds

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In a recent advisory, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has raised concerns over the surge in fraudulent activities associated with gaming apps. The MHA’s cyber wing, known as the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (14C), has issued a cautionary message, urging the public to exercise vigilance while engaging in online gaming to ensure their safety and security. The 14C’s message resonates with a straightforward mantra: “Play smart, play safe – stay secure while gaming online!” 

“Play smart, play safe.” – This is a tweet by “Cyber Dost” Stay safe while gaming online!

One of the primary recommendations from the MHA is to download gaming apps exclusively from reputable sources like the Google Play Store, Apple Store, and Official Websites. This precautionary measure aims to mitigate the risk of downloading malicious apps that could compromise users’ personal information or device security.

MHA Guidelines for Online Gaming:

  • Always verify game app publishers’ information to ensure website legitimacy.
  • Avoid falling into the trap of in-app purchases and enticing subscription offers.
  • Exercise caution when sharing personal information in chats or forums, as scammers often use social media tactics to manipulate players.
  • Allow only relevant and necessary permissions while downloading apps.
  • In case of online fraud, dial 1930 – the cybercrime helpline number.

Additionally, the MHA reports that 581 apps were blocked by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) till December 15 last year. Of these, 174 were betting and gambling apps, while 87 were loan lending apps. These actions were taken under section 69A of the IT Act, 2000. Notable bans include popular apps like PUBG, Garena Free Fire, Parimatch, Fairplay, 1XBET, Lotus365, Dafabet, and Betwaysatta. Some of these apps were operating illegally in India.

Significantly, the Centre amended the IGST Act in July last year, making it mandatory for all offshore gaming companies to register in India. This amendment empowers the Centre to block websites that are not registered and violate laws.

The report highlights that betting platforms were collecting UPI payments through proxy bank accounts, and the accumulated funds were being remitted through hawala, crypto, and other illegal routes.

The government’s focus on cybersecurity is evident through various initiatives, with nearly 70% of the criminal justice system, including prisons and courts, transitioning online. According to the report collated by the 14C wing, more than 20 lakh cybercrime complaints have been registered on the portal This has resulted in over 40,000 FIRs since its launch in January 2020, with an average of over 5,000 cybercrime complaints registered per day. The report also notes a significant growth of 113.7% in cybercrime complaints from 2021 to 2022 and a further 60.9% increase from 2022 to 2023.