If you plan to travel outside India, you must have a passport. Passports are official government documents that enable citizens to travel outside their country.

Whenever you travel abroad, your passport proves your identity and nationality. Your passport must be shown wherever you go. You can also use your passport as identification and proof of address. It can be used to access government and private services.

Online Passport Fraud: Beware of fake websites

You can apply both online and offline for a new passport or passport reissue. People nowadays prefer to do online transactions because they are more convenient. With the rise of online passport applications, online passport fraud is on the rise as well. Many fake websites have been set up by fraudsters with the intention of stealing money and personal information like passport numbers, mobile numbers, and addresses.

These websites are very active and show up in the major search engines. A woman recently lost 4,000 rupees to a fraudulent website when she renewed her passport. She visited the website www.online-passportindia.com and applied for a passport online.

As part of the application to renew the victim's passport, the victim was asked to transfer Rs 4,000 as processing fees. She received a phone call from fraudsters after paying Rs 4,000. They asked her to visit their office. Being suspicious, she inquired about their connection to the passport authority.

Immediately after asking this question, the caller disconnected the call, saying she would call back after some time. However, she never heard from the caller. Despite trying to call the number, it was not operational, and another number on the website was also not working.

When she visited the official website, she realized that she had been cheated since they had put up a notice that fraudulent websites like www.online-passportindia.com were defrauding people.

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What can be done to prevent this fraud?

1. To avoid this kind of fraud, you must use only the official website, where one can apply for passport services.

2. . Do not rely on the websites that pop up first on Google. Verify that the website you visit is legitimate and secure.

3. Don't give anyone your credit card number or OTP over the phone. You will never be asked to provide those details by a bank or company.

4. You should never pay in advance if you are not sure of the person's identity. The URL of the website must begin with HTTPS. This means that the site is secure and that you can make a secure payment. When paying online, make sure that the site is secure and try to avoid unsecured sites.

5. The use of digital escrow platforms for payments is recommended. When you make an online payment with Escrow, no financial information is shared. 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 #178. 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. 

Do you have a fraud you would like to report? Please write to us at letstalk@iamvouched.com