OLX smartphone scams are getting smarter

OLX has been one of the go-to places for many people to sell and buy used items. People love bargain hunting on OLX and finding a good deal. But recently a string of scams has put a lot of buyers through huge emotional distress. A couple of years back, a similar set of smartphone scams where iPhone was listed at Rs.5000 but many people knew this was a scam. Recently the scammers have become more sophisticated and put a lot of thought and effort into making their scam look as genuine as possible. Here is break down of one such scam

Smartphones at a great price

OLX Frauders list flagship smartphones at a great price under different accounts from different places in the city. These listings are done smartly so that they look genuine and very hard to distinguish as scams. The listings are priced at a good deal but not at too good to be the true price point. When you contact the seller. They just mention that they are a new eCommerce company and ask you to order through their website.

These are decently put together and listing a bunch of second-hand smartphones at a 40 - 60% discount. In the listing, it is mentioned showroom devices and mobile-only no chargers. They even have a small presence on social media. But if you notice closely even the latest release smartphone that launched just a month back will be listed. When you select the mobile you want to buy the payment options are limited to direct payment through UPI with a 5% discount and free shipping or COD where you need to pay the shipping fee upfront through UPI again. Why are options only limited to UPI and COD because other options like credit cards have purchase protection through chargebacks?

Let us say you are okay with paying the shipping fee just to take a small risk to get a good deal. The OLX scammers ship the phone and share a tracking number with you. You start to believe that this is a genuine startup eCommerce business and you got a great deal, but there is a big catch here. When you get the delivery you will need to pay the delivery guy 1st before you receive the package. This is a common problem will all cash on delivery orders as the name states it is CASH ON DELIVERY not open delivery or check properly and pay delivery. 

After paying when you open the box you do find a smartphone box, with your smartphone. When you try to switch it on it shows a low battery and when you charge it you see the progress bar. But later you find out that it is the only thing that the phone does. It is a fake phone that shows charing but never switches on and you have been scammed by a clever group of OLX scammers. You can’t ask the courier person or company for your money back as the courier company is only responsible for delivering the phone and collecting the money they don’t know/don’t care whether you are given the actual product. 

When you try to reach the seller number mentioned on OLX the phone is switched off, in the next few days to weeks the website vanishes. Then they just rinse and repeat. 

How do you avoid these scams? 

Simple always buy through platforms/payment options that offer purchase protection. For example, you can raise a chargeback on any item you buy through a credit card if it not genuine. Better yet use an escrow platform like vouch that offers purchase protection and shows you seller history so you can avoid these scams

The following tips will help you protect your money against fraud.

  1. In no case do government agencies, banks, or other financial institutions request financial information via SMS. In the case of UPI fraud, you should contact your bank or eWallet company and request the wallet be blocked in order to prevent further losses. 
  2. Police or the cybercrime cell can even be contacted about the incident.
  3. When using the digital payments app, you will probably receive a spam warning. Do not ignore it. The warning would appear if you transact with someone who had been reported earlier.
  4. Using digital escrow platforms as a payment method is preferred. When you pay through an Escrow payment system over the internet, you are not sharing your information with strangers. One such platform for escrow is Vouch
Escrow payment

This is Fraud Story #28. Check back here for more fraud chronicles and scams that you can protect yourself from.

Escrow payment

Safety is not just about protecting your credit or debit card number. 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 how to avoid frauds like these. Do you have a fraud that you would like to report? Please write to us at letstalk@iamvouched.com