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Pune: Crooks target e-shoppers with festive discount lure

S Mahajan of Pune was left poorer by Rs 25,000 within five minutes after she received a text message with a link on which she had clicked. The Cybercrime police have received 50 complaint applications of such thefts in past few days.

Oct 18, 2019, 11.47 AM IST
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(This story originally appeared in on Oct 18, 2019)
PUNE: An unsuspecting text message with the lure of heavy-discount shopping offers on an e-commerce website during the festive season between Dasara and Diwali left S Mahajan poorer by Rs 25,000 within barely five minutes.

The Dhanori resident, who works as an executive with a finance company, had clicked on a link embedded in the text message and she was surprised to realize that a software got automatically downloaded on her cellphone.

What followed was enough to leave Mahajan perplexed — she first received an OTP and soon after a message stating that articles worth Rs25,000 have been purchased using her debit card detals.

All that Mahajan could do was to report the incident to the Pune police’s cyber crime cell.

Cyber crime police inspector Jayram Paygude told TOI that Mahajan was among several citizens falling prey to the fraudsters’ design to dupe them in the similar fashion this festive season.

“Many e-commerce websites are offering heavy discounts on shopping during the festive season between Dasara and Diwali. Many of them send text messages to attract the customers with the links of their respective websites. The cyber crooks are adopting the same method to people at random — sending links embedded with malware and ultimately duping them of quite a few thousands of rupee,” Paygude said.

Since Dasara, the officer said, the Cybercrime police have received 50 complaint applications stating that some unidentified persons have duped them by shopping with details of their ATM cards. “We are investigating all the cases,” he said.

In these 50 cases, the lowest amount of fraudulent shopping was to the tune of about Rs5,000 and the highest was Rs70,000, the police said.

The police added that the fraudsters were using text messages to lure and dupe people at large by taking advantages of the online sale offers publicized by the e-commerce websites. “The fraudsters’ texts are designed in such a way that they look very similar to those sent by the e-commerce websites,” Paygude said.

The text messages alert people about the “new arrivals” and that they can either visit the stores/outlets or follow the embedded links to check the inventories and the discount offers.

“The text message reader is guided to a link. Once the message recipient clicks on the link, a software gets automatically downloaded in the phone and the fraudsters gain access to all the data of the phone,” he said.

“The fraudsters used services of e-wallets or told the cellphone owners to use ATM cards while shopping online. Once the bank or the e-wallet generates an OTP, it is accessed by the fraudsters, who then go on an online shopping spree,” he said.

The police have urged the citizens to verify the text messages before opening those and not to click on links at random.

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