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The cat and mouse game starts in used cars’ online sales

online-stolen-car
OLX has partnered with think tank Cyber Peace Foundation to conduct cyber-safety awareness workshops, starting with Rajasthan and Karnataka.
Mumbai: The cybercrime department of the Mumbai Police recently arrested three people for allegedly selling stolen vehicles on OLX. The trio was part of a gang that stole vehicles across India and advertised those for sale on online platforms using fake identities. According to cybercrime experts, these fraudsters usually pose as army officers or policemen.

The modus operandi worked like this: The gang had three teams.

The first was involved in stealing vehicles, the second created fake documents, registration certificates and insurance using photoshop software, and the third posted the pictures of vehicles and fake documents online. These vehicles were offered for half the prices.

A large number of stolen vehicles are finding their way into online classified ad platforms such as OLX and Quikr. As an intermediary, these platforms have little information about the users and the transactions. The companies, however, are aware of the misuse of their platforms, and are setting up teams and systems to identify such ads so that those could be investigated for fraud and flagged.

OLX, one of the largest online selling platforms, gets about 20,000 car listings a day, out of which 25% are rejected. Quikr claims to be getting about 1 lakh listings of cars and two-wheelers a month, from which 40% are rejected.

There is an increasing number of stolen vehicles finding their way into these websites, said Balsingh Rajput, superintendent of police (cyber), Maharashtra. “It is easy to list vehicles on such sites and fraudsters kind off get away too,” he said.

These websites said they employ filters including artificial intelligence-based systems to detect potential fraudsters. But these don’t help in fully preventing fraudsters from using the platforms.

The ads go through several technical filters to remove suspicious and bad content, said OLX. Quikr too uses technology filters to moderate the listings as offensive; duplicate, prohibited, spam, or copyright violation, and also does authentication of the advertiser through phone verification.

“Upon detecting any unusual listings, we delete the respective ads and contact details, and further block the user from using our platform,” said Atul Tewari, COO, Quikr and Head – QuikrCars and QuikrBikes. “We often collaborate with officials when they enquire about some of the listings, by providing them necessary details that can further aid their investigation.

Part of our due diligence is to create awareness and educate users as well,” he said.

These ad platforms said they closely check listings for criminal activities and do a proper customer verification. To safeguard the trust and safety of the users, they have also started building stringent processes against suspicious ads. Ads are rejected if they violate their trust and safety policies.

Some organised online marketplaces for used cars, such as Truebil, are able to better filter unwanted listings. “Since we buy and sell used cars, the cars are on our books. We do a lot of inspection of all the documents before we buy the car,” said Shubh Bansal, a cofounder of Truebil. But on platforms like OLX and Quikr, where each product is not standardised, filtering the information isn’t easy.

While the exact number of stolen vehicles getting listed on such sites is not known, cybercrime experts said fraudsters often used soft copies of Aadhaar and identity cards of defence personnel to create accounts on these sites.

“To combat fraudulent activities on the platform, we prevent any illegal or suspicious advertisements from going live and proactively provide information to law enforcement agencies to combat cybercrime,” said Lavanya Chandan, the general counsel at OLX India.

“The ads go through several technical filters to remove suspicious and bad content, like historical usage of the platform, category of product, product price, emergence from foreign locations, language used. At OLX, the phone number of each seller is verified by way of OTP and for law enforcement agencies, a unique identifier — in case something was to go wrong,” Chandan said.

OLX has partnered with think tank Cyber Peace Foundation to conduct cyber-safety awareness workshops, starting with Rajasthan and Karnataka.

“But with advancement in technology, complexity of such activities will only increase and businesses such as ours will continue to invest in measures to tackle this Tom and Jerry chase,” said Tewari of Quikr. The platform gets 15% of revenue from Quikr Cars & Bikes.

Officials dealing with cybercrime are blocking many accounts that are opened to carry out fraudulent deals. “We have been working with OLX and other online selling sites and supporting them in the investigations. Users and buyers are urged not to send advance or full payment before collecting the product,” said Rajput of Maharashtra Police.
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