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Coronavirus: Cyber fraudsters capitalise on high demand for masks, sanitisers

The chairman of a hospital equipment manufacturer company received a call from a Delhi-based shopkeeper, asking him to place an order for masks and hand sanitisers. He later realised that his details were allegedly being used for cheating people online.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Updated: March 31, 2020 2:48:02 pm
Sanitizers, Sanitizers demand, Sanitizers fraud, cyber fraud, coronavirus Sanitizers, coronavirus india news  Sanitizers are recommended to prevent from coronavirus. (Representational image)

Cyber fraudsters are taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which has led to a high demand for masks and hand sanitisers.

One such incident came to light when Navin Giri, chairman and managing director of Dolphin Surgicals, received a call on Saturday afternoon from a Delhi-based shopkeeper. Dolphin Surgicals is a manufacturer of hospital equipment.

“The caller asked me when I would get the stock of masks and hand sanitisers for which he had placed an order and made a payment. I told him we did not manufacture these items and there must have been a mistake. He had made a payment of Rs 3,000 through PayTM,” Giri told The Indian Express.

However, when the caller asked Giri to check Facebook, he was shocked to find his name and Mumbai address mentioned on ‘FB Marketplace’ under a different contact number.

“When I called the number, the caller identification showed my company’s name. However, the call went unanswered,” Giri said.

He then realised that his details were allegedly being used for cheating people online and approached Navghar police station in Bhayandar. “They only stamped a written complaint but did not file an FIR. They said they were busy with coronavirus-related bandobast,” Giri added.

After he returned home, around 6 pm, Giri got a call from a Chennai-based trader, who had allegedly been duped in a similar manner and had paid Rs 25,000 on the pretext of receiving a stock of hand sanitisers. At 9 pm, Giri got another call from an Indore-based trader who had allegedly paid Rs 10,000 in a similar transaction.

In each case, the caller had managed to obtain Giri’s correct number from the company’s website. In all three cases, the fraudster had claimed to have an office in the state from where an order was being placed, and had promised quick delivery.

“While I have received three calls, every time I have called the number, it appears to be busy. But when some of my friends contacted the number on Facebook, it was answered and the person was ready to take their order,” Giri said.

According to police, initial investigation has shown that the person using the number is from Delhi.

Cyber expert Shubham Singh said, “The number of similar cases that have come to light has gone up after COVID-19. There are a number of fraudulent websites that claim to accept donations for labourers in the name of some NGO or PM relief fund. People have to be extremely careful about where they are making payments and giving bank details. Cyber criminals keep changing their modus operandi and it appears that they are now using the desperation around COVID-19 to cheat people.”

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber) Vishal Thakur said, “There are agencies working at the Centre as well as to ensure that no one collects money under the guise of PM relief fund. There are several NGOs, organisations collecting money at their own level so it gets difficult to find out which is genuine. However, we are keeping an eye out for such fraud.”

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?

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