Scammers take advantage of people on social media using tricks like free gifts, lottery draws, and smart deals. It is not uncommon for people to receive friend requests and messages from fraudsters pretending to be friends. It is usually fraudsters who use those messages and requests to defraud innocent people out of their hard-earned money.

People are well aware that such communications are fraudulent, so they disregard them. However, many innocent people mistake this for the truth, and they consequently lose their hard-earned money. 

Typically, it starts via phone calls, friend requests, emails, SMSs, or WhatsApp messages. The fraudsters promise the victim has won an expensive gift or massive amounts of money. In order to receive the winnings, a recipient must first pay the processing fees or the transfer charges. Upon sending the funds, the fraudsters will run off with their money.

Online gift fraud: Woman lost Rs 18.12 lakhs to a Facebook friend

On the pretext of sending her an expensive gift, a fraudster used Facebook to befriend a Pune woman and dupe her of Rs 18.12 lakh.

In December 2020, a 43-year-old woman got a friend request on Facebook from a man named "Droscar Santiago.". She accepted the friend request and started interacting with him after some time. The two began talking over the phone. According to the lady, the man said he's a foreigner and he has sent her an expensive gift and sent her a photo of a shipping receipt. 

As a requirement to receive the gift, the woman had to deposit money into various bank accounts under the names of custom duties, transfer charges, processing fees, and other fees. Over time, this lady continued to pay money into the fraudster's bank account under the guise of shipping charges, unaware that she was paying money to the fraudster. 

Until January 2021, the lady paid Rs 18.12 lakh in total but did not receive a gift. Upon realizing that she had been defrauded, she approached the police and filed a complaint against the online fraudster. A police complaint has been registered against the online fraudster.

Police have lodged an FIR under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code as well as various provisions of the Information Technology Act at the Wanavdi police station.

Also Check: Mumbai doctor loses Rs.17 lakh to online fraud

How to avoid this type of fraud - 

1. Unsolicited offers received via email, text messages, phone calls, or other means should be discarded.

 2. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be a lottery representative, do not pay an advance fee.

3. There are a lot of 'phishing' incidents taking place on social media. Be careful when accepting requests that appear suspicious.

 4. It is recommended that digital escrow platforms be used for payment. When making an online payment with Escrow, you do not share your financial information with anyone. There is a platform for escrow called Vouch.

How does digital escrow work?

In digital escrow, a third-party account holds the money deposited by the buyer until the seller fulfills the terms of the contract. The escrow company supervises the transacting parties.

What is the role of Digital Escrow in preventing online fraud in India? 

Digital escrow services are offered by many companies in India. Among the most trusted is Vouch.

Vouch’s Digital Escrow service is a transparent way for buyers and sellers to build trust and secure a clean transfer of product and payment. Sellers can feel assured that they will be fairly compensated promptly, and buyers will feel confident that their order will be delivered as expected and on schedule. Vouch Digital Escrow keeps you updated and informed at every step of the transaction process till the end. Vouch’s professionals are always available to assist you with all queries that you may have during the entire transaction process. 

There is no scope for deceit or fraud since the payments, shipping, delivery, and execution are carried out under the honest and watchful eyes of the Vouch’s professionals. With Vouch, any business transaction becomes transparent, uncomplicated, and hassle-free. If you ever come across a fraudster asking for OTP, asking you to scan a QR code, or asking you to click on phishing links, you can simply refuse and ask him/her to proceed with the transaction through Vouch.

This is Fraud Story #114. Check back here for more fraud stories and scams that you can protect yourself from.

Safety is not just about protecting your credit, debit card number, and UPI accounts. It's about having control of your money till you've received the product or service you bought online!

Note: This is a good-faith initiative to educate the world about avoiding frauds like these and how to act when you're becoming a victim of such a situation. 

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