OLX & Quikr Frauds: What they are and How to Prevent

OLX & Quikr Frauds: What they are and How to Prevent

OLX & Quikr Frauds: What they are and How to Prevent

OLX/ Quikr frauds are a kind of UPI based frauds. However, since millions of people have fallen victim to them, the fraud is euphemistically known as OLX or Quikr frauds. These frauds perpetuate on classified advertisement platforms like OLX. 

Both buyer and seller in these platforms are the targets of OLX frauds. It’s hard to believe but even well educated persons are even falling to these scams. However, most of the victims are first time internet users, who lack understanding of app based payment (UPI payments). 

Let’s delve deeper and understand how the fraud actually operates. 

Scammers Posing as Buyers:
Step 1: You post an item for selling on these classified advertisement platforms. Subsequently you receive a call on the mobile number you had advertised, for purchasing the product. In most of the cases, you receive such calls almost instantly as fraudsters keep track of new sellers on these platforms. 

Step 2: To avoid being seen as fraudulent, fraudsters bargain as normal customers. In few cases you may receive calls from multiple prospective buyers who shall quote a price higher than the previous caller. They are part of a larger gang and play together in a well coordinated manner. Once the fraudsters are done with the bargaining and gain your trust, the stage is set for scam. The fraudster starts playing his tricks now onwards. 

Step 3: The fraudster then claims to sending money via UPI based platforms like Google Pay, Phone Pe or other UPI based apps, to purchase/ book the product. 

However, instead of sending the money, the caller requests the money from you. This is done by using “Request Money” feature of these UPI based apps. To complete the fraud, the scammer will ask you to enter your PIN. 

Once you enter the PIN, money gets debited from your account, instead of getting credited. And become a victim of OLX/ Quikr frauds.  

Scammers Posing as Sellers:
In this type of frauds, scammers sign-up as sellers on OLX, Quikr and other similar classified advertisement sites. There is nothing wrong in signing up as sellers, but the difference is of intention. The pictures and other details of the product are often copied from genuine sellers on these platforms. 

The fraudsters often aim to gain trust of prospecting buyers by posing themselves as army personnel, and also keep the prince of product ridiculously low. For example, if normal market value of a used car is Rs 2 lacs, then these scammers would change it’s cost to say Rs 50, 000. The description of product is made even more lucrative e.g., the product has been used only for limited period of time or not used at all. It’s done to garner the attention of multiple buyers, who get lured by lower cost and quality of the product and consequently contact the fraudulent seller. The victim is usually very excited thinking it as better than expected deal.

Scammer then shares well cooked up story that he is an army-man posted at very inaccessible place and therefore unable to use the product lying idle at home. Therefore, he is selling the product at such low price. Scammers even share fake Identification card and other document to prove their fake identity. 

The scammer then bargains with the buyer and agrees to sell the product. However, they make excuses not to show the product face to face, the most prominent being posted in a far away region as army or CISF personnel. Therefore he will send the product via courier service. Fraudsters then share fake receipts of courier companies, to indicate that the product has been dispatched. And then ask for pre-payment before the actual delivery of the product. They even cite unpleasant experiences with prior delivery of products, and ask for payment to be made before the product finally reaches you.   

After victim sends the money to the scammer’s account, he may simply stop responding to calls or block the victim’s number. In some cases, fraudsters keep asking for more money using different pretext like toll charges, service tax, GST tax etc. The victim keeps on getting duped, until realizes that he has been de-frauded by criminals.  

People are susceptible to these kinds of frauds as people often do not question the authenticity of someone from army. 

Salient Features of these Scams:

Pose as both Buyer and Seller:
Scammers pose as both buyers and sellers on these platforms. This is because the ultimate fraud is perpetuated at UPI based payment stage. By posing as seller, criminals ask for money in advance for non-existent products. And by posing as buyer, they fraudulently get money credited to their account, rather than paying for the product. 

Hiding their true identity: 
To hide their true identity they often impersonate army or CISF personnel to have greater degree of trust and legitimacy in the eyes of the buyer. Examples discussed below will further clarify their Modus Operandi. 

Impersonation for Credibility:
In overwhelming majority of cases, these fraudsters impersonate as army personnel. The motive is to garner the trust of the victim to fool the victim into paying the money (fake buyer case). The reported cases of OLX frauds in India, has found this deception to be the most common feature of these frauds. Therefore, beware of anyone claiming to be army-men in these platforms. At least don’t trust them blindly. 

Under Priced Products:
When posing as seller of products, they keep the price of their product much below the market rates. This is done deliberately to entice people into contacting them for making the purchase. More the number of potential buyers more are the chances of committing such frauds. Also, at such underpriced rates, people are more willing to pay sooner, to book the product in advance. Thus, it serves dual purpose. Clearly, absurdly low price of product is hallmark sign of fake sellers on these classified ads platforms. 

Insisting on Buying/ Selling the Product without Checking in Person:
In either cases – when fraudsters pose as buyer or seller, fraudster would never agree to see the product or to show the product in real life. This is because, there is no true buyer or seller, but a criminal in form of genuine customer.  

The fraudster even has fears that Law Enforcement Authorities may catch him for his misdeeds of the past or the current attempt at fraud. Therefore, not consenting to real life meet-up is classic signature of OLX frauds. 

Beware of any buyer/ seller on OLX showing un-necessary urgency or trying to emotionally blackmail you to avoid real life meet-ups.  

Little to No Bargaining:
Fraudsters are not real customers, who will not agree to purchase/ sell the product if bargaining doesn’t succeed. They are simply looking to defraud people, and something is better than nothing. If you shall try to bargain bit more, he would happily give up and agree to your quoted price.  

Typical Fraud Methods:

Call from the Airport: 
This fraud generally involves sale of a car, at a price much lower than the market rates. Once the prospective buyer is lured by its lower cost, the fraudster shares a fake story and informs that the car for sale is parked at the airport. The fraudster then demands pre-payment on pretext of custom clearance, VIP parking charges etc. 

In some cases, the other members of the gang ring up the victim claiming themselves as Airport Customs Officer. It is done to take the victim into confidence to extract the payment. Once the payment is made to the fraudster they either vanish from the scene or continue to press the innocent victim to make up further payment with different excuses. 

OLX Scams involving Army Personnel:
Most of the OLX scams, being reported to police these days involve buyer/ seller claiming to be working in the army or CISF. Fraudsters mis-use the ID cards of genuine army men or CISF personnel to gain the trust of the victim before conning them. 

The gullible citizens don’t question the authenticity of the documents and identity card sent by the criminals posing as army personnel. And thus end up getting victimized in form of advance payment for products or money gets debited from their accounts as they enter the M-PIN to receive the payment from fraudsters posing as legitimate buyers. 

Real Life Case Studies:

Case 1: The person contacted the owner of the advertisement to purchase an item at a price mentioned by the seller in the advertisement. Then the seller first asked to pay the parcel fees through online mode after assuring and winning the trust of the purchaser by sending fake ID proofs. After paying the charges of the item/ courier though online mode, the seller stopped picking up the calls. 

Case 2: A seller, posing as an Army personnel, offered latest item like smart-phone etc. at an astonishingly low price. E.g. OnePlus 6T phone on OLX for Rs 23,000, when its market price is Rs 41,999.

The seller then established his credentials by sharing the photos of Aadhaar card and an Army canteen pass. He then claimed to be posted at Hyderabad city airport, thus will not be able to deliver the package in person. 

So, he suggested sending the product through the Army postal service and asked for an advance payment and a security deposit to be made through PayTM. The seller then sent him photographs of the courier shop and bills with the addresses that looked genuine. The purchaser then paid Rs 3,100 as advance fee and Rs 5,150 for the postal charges, all of which was supposedly deductible from the total amount.

The ‘courier delivery boy’ then called up a few days later, saying he is in the vicinity and insisted that the remaining amount of Rs 12, 750 be paid first through PayTM before he delivers the product. He insisted the payment citing “unpleasant experiences of non-payment in the past.”

Once the full amount was paid, the seller’s brazenly refuses to deliver the product, citing a GST amount of Rs 7,000 is still due to him. 

How to Prevent OLX/ Quikr Frauds:
Though online platforms like OLX, Quikr etc provide a convenient platform for buying or selling products, one must remain cautious. Here are some points, worth keeping in mind, to prevent being victimized. 

  • Never pay in advance: Whatever the excuse may be – courier charges, processing fees, duty fees, custom amount etc. The pre-payment demands are more than often fake and fraudulent. If the prospective buyer/ seller insists for upfront payment citing emotional, medial or other urgency don’t fall prey to it. These are noting but well laid traps. Similarly, any demand for money as assurance against fraud is also likely a scam. 
  • Independent Verification: You should conduct an independent verification of seller’s credentials like name, website, address, phone number etc. There are several OSINT tools that can help you with the process including simple Google searches. 
  • Refund of Extra Amount Paid – Trick: To fool people, fraudster claims that he had sent money more than the actual negotiated price of the product, by mistake. And therefore ask for refund of the extra amount paid. To further convince the seller, they send fake SMS (with fake message sender ID) on the phone to prove that money has been credited to victim’s account, when there has been none in reality. Don’t fall for these traps and don’t entertain any such claims, until you have verified the same from your bank.  
  • Verify emails and SMS very carefully: Fraudsters, now-a-days send fake SMS or spoofed emails to garner the faith of the victim. 
  • Physically Check Quality of Product: You should physically check the quality of the product before purchasing it online. OLX itself says – “Please note that we have no control over and do not guarantee the quality, safety or legality of items / properties / services advertised, the truth or accuracy of users’ content or listings, the ability of sellers to sell items, the ability of buyers to pay for items, or that a buyer or seller will actually complete a transaction or return an item. It is the buyer's responsibility to check the items / properties / services before completing the transaction”.
  • Always remember that bank officials and company never ask for sensitive financial information like credit/ debit card details, OTPs, bank account details, net banking credentials, UPI PIN etc. Similarly, if a deal appears too good to be true, it probably is. Therefore, don’t fall for under priced products e.g., car for Rs 50,000.
  • Transfer the money to seller only when you receive the goods. OLX have their own recommended payment methods where they act as intermediary, use them. 
  • To perform transaction using UPI apps, users need to enter their M-PIN which differs for every linked bank account. It is akin to digital ATM PIN and therefore must not be shared with strangers. Similarly, your UPI login pass-code which you need to log into your UPI account must be kept confidential. For enhanced levels of safety, you should also put a lock on your payment apps. 
  • To receive money into your account via UPI, you need not do anything. Therefore, if someone is asking you to enter your M-PIN to receive money, it’s a fraud. In fact, once you enter your M-PIN money will get debited from your UPI linked bank account. Therefore, always remember that payment requests only require action on your part i.e., to enter M-PIN to approve it. In case someone is sending you money in advance or for your product on OLX or Quikr, the sender can either send you money using your bank account details (account number, IFSC code and name), UPI ID or by using your mobile number if both - you and buyer are using the same UPI based app. 
  • If a scammer sends you payment request on your UPI app, you need not worry. The money will not be deducted from your account, unless you approve the request by entering your secret M-PIN. Therefore, simply decline the request. 
  • Scammers also sometimes ask users to install remote screen recorder apps like Quick Support, Team Viewer or Any Desk on their devices. Once installed and paired up, scammers can access everything that’s there on your device’s screen. Therefore, never install these apps on request of strangers. 

How OLX Helps Victims?
OLX website itself explicitly says that – 

“Luckily OLX can help you If you want to press charges legally against the fraudster and we can also provide you with all the data that you require to help you getting your items/money back.

As we are trying to keep our users privacy, we cannot release any data concerns a user to another without a legal warrant, means you have to report the fraud to the local authorities such as the police station and the police department concerned to such cases have to contact us requesting such data, only then we can release all the data they have requested such as (IP, Dates, Email,... etc.). Note we only require such process to be followed for the sake of our users privacy”.

What to do if your Became a Victim of OLX Frauds?
The fraudster essentially cheats the victim and dishonestly induces him/ her to transfer money to the fraudster’s account, therefore Section 420 of Indian Penal Code can be slapped on the fraudster. 

Section 420 IPC has been reproduced below:
Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property: Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person de¬ceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Nature of Offence: Cognizable and Non-bailable 
Similarly, if the fraudster had sent fake identity of army man, CISF etc or shared fake courier receipts, custom charges slip etc., then Section 468 of Indian Penal Code would also apply to the case. 

Section 468 IPC has been reproduced below:
Forgery for purpose of cheating: Whoever commits forgery, intending that the document or electronic record forged shall be used for the purpose of cheating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Nature of Offence: Cognizable and Non-bailable 

Conclusion:
Since both Section 420 and Section 468 IPC, are cognizable. Therefore, you should approach the nearest police station, or local/ state cyber cell having jurisdiction over your area to lodge an FIR, in accordance with Section 154 of Cr.P.C.

Section 154 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973
Information in cognizable cases: (1) Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

(2) A copy of the information as recorded under sub- section (1) shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant.

(3) Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection (1) may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.

Will you get Money Refund from Banks in OLX Frauds?
Money refund in case of un-authorized electronic banking transactions is governed by RBI circular dated July 06, 2017. 

RBI Notification:
The bank’s (All scheduled commercial banks, Small finance bank and Payment Banks) liability in case of Unauthorized Electronic Banking Transactions is governed by RBI circular - RBI/2017-18/15, DBR.No.Leg.BC.78/09.07.005/2017-18 dated July 06, 2017. 

The Most Important Aspects of the Circular are as follows:
Limited Liablity of a Customer:

1. Zero Liability of a Customer
A customer’s entitlement to zero liability shall arise where the unauthorized transaction occurs in the following events:

  • Contributory fraud/ negligence/ deficiency on the part of the bank (irrespective of whether or not the transaction is reported by the customer).
  • Third party breach where the deficiency lies neither with the bank nor with the customer but lies elsewhere in the system, and the customer notifies the bank within three working days of receiving the communication from the bank regarding the unauthorized transaction.

2. Limited Liability of a Customer:
A customer shall be liable for the loss occurring due to unauthorized transactions in the following cases:

  • In cases where the loss is due to negligence by a customer, such as where he has shared the payment credentials, the customer will bear the entire loss until he reports the unauthorized transaction to the bank. Any loss occurring after the reporting of the unauthorized transaction shall be borne by the bank.
  • In cases where the responsibility for the Unauthorized electronic banking transaction lies neither with the bank nor with the customer, but lies elsewhere in the system and when there is a delay (of four to seven working days after receiving the communication from the bank) on the part of the customer in notifying the bank of such a transaction, the per transaction liability of the customer shall be limited to the transaction value or the amount mentioned in Table, whichever is lower.

Will get Money Refund in OLX Frauds?
RBI guideline says - In cases where the loss is due to negligence by a customer, such as where he has shared the payment credentials, the customer will bear the entire loss until he reports the unauthorized transaction to the bank. Any loss occurring after the reporting of the unauthorized transaction shall be borne by the bank.

Therefore, if the victim shares crucial details like OTPs, or approves the payment by entering M-PIN willingly, the victim will have to bear the entire loss until he reports the unauthorized transaction to the bank. However, any loss occurring after the reporting of the unauthorized transaction shall be borne by the bank.

Conclusion:
Online classified ads platforms like OLX and Quikr and UPI based payment system have made our life convenient. However, if you don’t remain vigilant and cautious, you may end up getting victimized. Therefore, be aware about the newer frauds perpetuating on these classified ads platforms and play safe.