The next time you look up a contact number for an establishment or organisation on a search engine, you might unwittingly land in the clutches of online fraudsters. The Azad Maidan police are investigating a case in which Rs 40,000 was siphoned off from a youth’s account, through five fraudulent transactions in a matter of minutes, after his mother had carried out an online search and dialled a number she believed was of an online grocery store.
In his complaint to the police on Wednesday, a Marine Lines resident has said that on January 25, his mother had ordered groceries home through the mobile application of a prominent online grocery delivery service. When the groceries were delivered on January 28, she found that an order for muskmellon seeds, for which she had paid Rs 31, was missing. She raised a complaint on the application, and received a response on it that the company would contact her soon.
After waiting for a call from the company for two days, she carried out a cursory online search for the company’s contact number, as a number was not provided on the application. On January 30, she placed a call on the number she found online.
“We dialled the number twice, but the calls were not answered. The same night, we received a call from someone claiming to be calling from the company and reminded us about the two calls we had placed earlier. The caller said that it would take 15-20 days to get the muskmellon seeds we had ordered, and asked my mother to accept a refund. My mother initially refused to do so, but later accepted the offer,” he said, a law student.
The caller then asked her for her net banking account number, which she did not give. Instead, the son gave the caller his Paytm number. The caller said he would get a message on his number and asked to forward the message to a number the caller gave. In a while, the son received a link on his phone with a One Time Password (OTP) number, which was valid for 180 seconds. On the caller’s instructions, the son told him the OTP number. This was repeated multiple times.
In the span of five minutes, Rs 10,000 was debited from his account thrice, and Rs 5,000 twice, before the son could block his account. On Wednesday, he visited Azad Maidan police station. Acting on his complaint, the police registered a First Information Report ( FIR) against the unidentified callers as well as the online grocery delivery service.
“We have registered an offence of cheating under the section 420 of Indian Penal Code and also booked the accused under sections of the Information Technology act,” said an officer from Azad Maidan police station.
“We had raised our complaint on the application the day the groceries were delivered. It has been 15 days since, but we are yet to hear from the company, nor have we received any refund. I wonder whether the company is at all worried about the fraud and the bogus number which has been displayed as theirs online,” said the son.
This is the latest in a recent spate of online cheating cases in which fraudsters replace contact details of establishments or organisations on search engines with their phone numbers.
They then ask fraudsters to make payments through e-wallets. There have been several cases of people looking up numbers for local wines shops seeking home deliveries, and falling victim to such frauds.
In a similar case, a scamster had posted a number on Google as that of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s office in Bandra. When people contacted the number, the scamster asked the callers for confidential information and duped several of them. Following several complaints, EPFO had lodged a police complaint and published public notices warning people about the bogus number.