Liquor delivery scams surface in Kolkata

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 16, 2020

Police trace scamsters to Jamtara in Jharkhand

An innocuous message through SMS, WhatsApp or on the Facebook page that seeks to “help you” with “home delivery of liquor”, may end up wiping out your bank balance.

As the clamour for liquor grows, scamsters are coming up with new ways to target the gullible.

According to Kolkata Police, the cyber security wing has already received about five complaints in the last few days where “unsuspecting people” put in orders online (to purchase alcohol) and shared their bank details, resulting in amounts being siphoned off, or dubious transactions being done on their credit cards. In some cases, digital payments have been made sans any delivery of goods (liquor in this case).

“We are working on the complaints and have traced some of these gangs to be based out of Jamtara in Jharkhand. We, in our parlance, call them the Jamtara gang. They have been previously involved in phishing scams,” Murlidhar Sharma, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Kolkata Police, told BusinessLine.

Jamtara has already made headlines as the “phishing capital of India”.

Arrests, though, are yet to be made, and exact details of monetary losses are being worked out.

The modus operandi

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a slew of forwards on social media regarding home delivery of liquor.

Taking advantage of these forwards, Facebook pages have come up which promise home delivery of liquor. Sometimes names of known shops are used in these pages.

Users are told to share their mobile numbers or make calls to a number provided on the social media page(s). Once a user (read victim) does so, the person receives a call asking for further details like credit card number, CVV or net banking details.

In some cases, victims are asked to make an online transfer or make a digital payment to a particular number. Ultimately, neither does the order get delivered, nor the victim any further calls. These phones remain “not available”. The fraudsters have wiped out sums as low as ₹900 to larger ones involving a few thousand rupees from the bank accounts of these unsuspecting buyers, say investigating agencies.

“The numbers of those cheated in Kolkata could be higher than reported. Not all are coming forward to file complaints,” says a senior official.

Not the first instance

Incidentally, some analysts and cyber security trackers say similar scams were reported from places like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

In a previous instance reported earlier this year, fraudsters posted images with their own phone numbers on wine shop listings. When an unsuspecting buyer would contact them for a delivery, they would ask the buyer for advance payment. Once the buyer made the payment, the fraudsters would stop responding. This was called the “Google Maps booze scam”. The US-giant had issued a statement saying: “Spammers and others with negative intent are a problem for consumers, businesses and technology companies that provide local business information. We’re always working on new and better ways to fight these issues and keep our information up to date. We use automated and manual systems to detect spam and fraud, but we tend not to share details of our processes so as not to tip off spammers or others with bad intent.”

More scams in Kolkata

The Kolkata Police is also working on a second scam that has surfaced this coronavirus season. This deals with the “loan waiver” or EMI moratorium on bank loans / credit cards. Here, scamsters call up the victims identifying themselves as bank representatives, and seek their personal details – bank account number and credit card number, along with passwords. They convince the victims to share an OTP, and then siphon off money from the accounts or make transactions on their credit cards.

Some banks are already sending SMSes to customers warning them of such calls.

“Yes, at least two-three such complaints were received last week too, where users were duped in the name of loan waiver or EMI deferment. Again, we have traced these calls to Jamtara in Jharkhand,” Sharma said.

Published on April 16, 2020

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