New Delhi: It is a crowded place.
There are people on the sidewalks.
People are drinking coffee.
There is an air of casualness.
But, a new phenomenon is emerging in India: a new wave of scammers.
This is not a new phenomena.
In India, the scammers have always had their share of success.
What is new is that the scam has become more sophisticated and, in a way, even more widespread.
Scammers are now able to manipulate the trust of the Indian consumer.
In the wake of the recent demonetisation drive, the Indian scammers targeted small- and medium-sized businesses and were successful.
“In the last one year, they have tried to target the entire country,” says Amit Shah, founder and managing director of security consultancy D3 Security, based in Mumbai.
Scamsters are now taking advantage of India’s increasingly mobile population, where they can target small- to medium-size businesses and the elderly.
According to the Indian government, between August 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, 6.8 crore small-to-medium businesses were affected by the demonetization drive, of which about 20% were affected in India.
Scams and scam victims A scammed individual may have a list of names, addresses and dates of birth.
But if you do a little sleuthing, you will find the scammer may be hiding a wealth of information on a business that they claim they are selling.
For instance, a scammer might have a contact list that includes the contact details of more than 40 lakh customers.
“If you are targeting a small business, you need to know who their customers are,” says Shah.
“So if you go to their website, you’ll find out that they are trying to target customers in the elderly population, for instance.”
It is not just the elderly who are targeted by scammers, however.
Schemers also target women, especially the less educated and the underprivileged.
“Women are the biggest target,” says Sarath Jain, co-founder of Airtel Identity, a technology consultancy based in Delhi.
Scampers target women through social media, which is where scammers are increasingly finding a foothold.
“The scammers now have more visibility,” says Jain.
“They have been able to target women by sharing their social media profiles and their personal details.
In some cases, they even try to trick women into purchasing goods.”
Scammer scams are usually organised through online forums or social media.
But these are not the only avenues.
“You can buy luxury goods from the website of a scammers,” says Anand Parekh, founder of a security firm based in Bangalore.
“There are also scams on the internet where people post their personal information and then they get their money refunded.”
Scams often involve a sophisticated system of payment schemes.
Scrap-offs A scammer can claim that a scam item has been made by them.
But the seller has a history of scams.
This means that the scamster is likely to have the experience of selling similar products in the past.
“It is easier to get a refund from a scam than a refund,” says Parek.
“When you are scammed, you are probably going to ask for a refund or a credit card.”
A scam that ends with a buyer paying for the item or a scamster paying for an item is a scam.
“This is how the scammed buyer will say ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t buy that’,” says Pirekh.
“What they usually do is to say that the item has sold and that they paid for it, but it’s not true.”
The scammers often offer to provide their own information to the buyer.
This can include credit card details, details of their bank account, or even details of the company where they work.
If you are unable to verify these details, the scam will end with the scamp paying you for the goods or getting the money refund.
“I think the scams are also doing the same thing with the credit card information, which has been provided by the scam,” says Patel.
“People will just use this as proof that the card has been used for payment.”
This means you may end up with a bill for the purchase price.
However, it is the fact that you received a bill from the scam that will often give you pause.
“For example, if a customer says that he bought a pair of shoes for Rs 1,000 and they say that they did not pay for them, then this would be a scam,” explains Parekar.
“Scamsters will often ask for an advance payment for the items and then will ask for the payment back.”
A scammers will often make it difficult to tell the difference between legitimate purchases and scams.
“To avoid a scam, it’s very important to be careful,” says Rupesh Gupta, a partner at consultancy firm McKinsey & Co.