The pandemic has created a shift towards a digital world and triggered extreme changes in online shopping trends that are likely to have lasting effects. Since the lockdown, Indian consumers have been entirely dependent on online platforms to purchase home decor, clothes, news, healthcare facilities, and even booking the vaccine. The most common platforms widely used for communication are namely Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram. As soon as consumers shifted to online shopping, companies eventually started offering additional discounts and more lucrative offers to increase sales. Due to the lockdown opportunity, several small businesses started selling through social media as well. As usual, fraudsters took advantage of people looking for goods with lesser prices, and due to the lack of a secure payment system, they could easily scam without being reported. Rajasthan is widely known for its hand embroidery and hand-stitched items. Due to the pandemic, these street-side sellers are facing a huge crisis. The main problem of these vendors is that, they know less about opening an online store, instead they try to sell through social media platforms.

How did the fraud take place using a Whatsapp group?

Women have a fantasy of buying decorative items like handbags, bangles, etc. Especially when it belongs from other states, where the craft is appreciated and always in demand. This is the story of Anita, who was thinking of purchasing handbags from Rajasthani craftsmen. Being a resident of Nagpur, the only choice she had was to buy it from online stores or groups. She came across a Facebook page called Rajasthani Hub 11 where there was a wide range of handbags and other unique items. The admin added her to a WhatsApp group, where she found there are several other members who were possibly vendors or customers. Anita asked the admin to sent her certain handbags which she selected while checking the Facebook page. The admin said it was not available, but he asked her to transfer the amount so that he can arrange it from another vendor and send her directly. Believing his words, Anita transferred INR 1540/- for two handbags through Paytm. Anita had little idea, she was stepping into the trap of scammers. Eventually, a week went by, the admin showed excuses for Covid-19 and refused to share the tracking ID. Anita called her several times after a month went by, but the admin asked for more money in order to process the shipping. Anita clearly understood its a fraud and she asked for her refund. The admin blocked her on-call and WhatsApp messages. Anita had no choice other than to post on social media and making people aware of such fraud sellers.

How to stay safe from fake Facebook sellers? 

1. Make sure to verify all licenses and documents of the seller before paying to start the delivery process.

2. Pay any advance payment with Vouch. It is a digital escrow system that releases your payment after you receive your order.

3. Make sure to check the products through video calls and verify the whether is seller is genuine or fraudulent.

4. Always try to find sellers through recommendations, contacts, and trustworthy networks, so that there is no fraud.

What is a digital escrow?

Digital Escrow is the use of a third party account, during a transaction, which holds the money deposited by the person who is purchasing any product/service until the seller fulfills the terms of the agreement. The transacting parties are supervised by the escrow company.

How does Digital Escrow support small businesses in India?

Vouch’s Digital Escrow service is a transparent way for online sellers and buyers to build a long-lasting relationship by securing a clean transfer of product and payment. Buyers can feel assured that they will be fairly compensated in a timely manner, and buyers will feel confident that their orders will be delivered as expected and on schedule.

Vouch Digital Escrow uses a non-interest-bearing escrow account for all transactions in India and 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.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is Fraud Story #85. Check back here for more fraud chronicles and scams that you can protect yourself from. 

Safety is not just about protecting your credit or debit card number. It's about having control of your money till you've delivered the product or service you contracted to!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 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