Facebook finds it itself in the middle of its first scam of the new decade and the catalyst seems to be its online marketplace. However, the related report highlights a much larger issue that has nothing to do with Facebook, at all. Instead, it alerts users of the misuse of online marketplaces and UPI platforms by scammers.
The scammer first approached the victim on Facebook Marketplace regarding an ad posting about furniture. The accuser reports that the deal was made smoothly without any price negotiations from the buyer’s end. The scammer posing as the buyer chose to make the payment using the UPI based platform PayTM.
UPI based platforms like PayTM and Google Pay allow users to make, receive, and request payments. Making a payment always requires an OTP. On the other hand, receiving a payment requires no action from the recipient’s end. Requests are slightly more complex. The willing recipient can request a certain amount of money from others using their mobile number or UPI id. However, it is up to the requested person to accept or decline this request. In case they accept the request, they need to complete the transaction using an OTP.
In the incident at hand, the scammer took all relevant UPI details from the victim and made a request instead of a payment. The seller reports sharing an OTP with the alleged buyer.
When confronted about the debited amount, the scammer obliged to return the money to the seller but insisted on doing it using a different UPI platform, Google Pay. However, the scammer once again requested money from the buyer’s UPI account and successfully had it transferred to theirs.
After losing Rs. 1.01 lakhs in these 2 incidents, the seller realized he was being scammed and rejected the scammer’s second attempt at a refund.
UPI Scams in India
UPI is a widely used service among the Indian population. It’s the primary mode of digital transactions all over the country, with users belonging to both, urban and rural areas.
In October 2019, the service crossed the 1 billion transactions milestone and gained its first 100 million users.
The expansive user base, however, makes it a desirable platform for scammers to misuse. UPI has been long used for scams similar to the one mentioned above on other online marketplaces like OLX and Quikr. Multiple reports of identical incidents have surfaced in the past year or so, For instance, another seller from Mumbai lost Rs. 50,000 while trying to sell an air conditioner in June last year.
While the best course of action to take in such cases is taking legal action, it’s often a long process with a very low chance of successful resolution due to shortcomings on the end of Indian law enforcement and the tricks employed by scammers to keep their tracks covered.
Hence, the best way to avoid being scammed while listing items on online marketplaces is to be careful with buyers. All UPI transactions should be made carefully, preferably in person. If possible, the seller can demand a cheque or cash payment.
One should also be careful about scam text messages and calls. A general rule of thumb is not sharing OTPs, bank details, and CVV with anyone.