Mumbai Police Caution People About Booster Vaccine Scam
Moneylife Digital Team 04 January 2022
Online fraudsters have come up with an innovative way to cheat people (especially senior citizens) - this time in the guise of COVID vaccine booster dose. Due to the recent surge in cases of COVID-19's Omicron variant, the situation has paved the way for this type of online fraud. Mumbai Police has forewarned people to be vigilant of these new scams and that no such booster doses are available yet.
 
The modus operandi for this new fraud is simple. The caller, who identifies himself as a government employee, contacts the senior citizens and enquires with them if they are double vaccinated. Sometimes they do not ask but inform you that “you are double vaccinated and are due for a booster dose”. The caller may even share the correct age, date of birth, address, Aadhaar number and make it look very genuine.
 
When the senior citizen gives an affirmative answer, the scamster also shares the date of vaccination and centres to make it look more authentic.
 
After confirmation of the basic details, the scamster asks the victims if they are interested in taking a third vaccination, a booster dose, which is effective in fighting the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Once the victim falls prey to the conjob, the scamster asks them to register themselves to be eligible for the booster dose, which will be rolled out for the public in January or February.
 
The scamster then informs the victim that an OTP will be received on their phone. About 15 minutes after this phone call, another call is made to the victim to seek the OTP, which could empty the bank account or siphon off the victim's money.
 
Police officers said fraudsters keep on coming up with new ways to cheat people. These fraudsters often scan social media for those looking for COVID resources and contact them. To stay away from such scams, the elderly especially should enquire with the government channels to ascertain if any such doses are offered. Mumbai Police has circulated an audio message on social media that explains the modus operandi and cautions people about the new fraud. 
 
Talking about the ways to avoid such frauds, the cybercrime cell said that people should not blindly believe in such random calls. Crosscheck with government authorities about any scheme. People should not fall for such traps and verify the information before making any payment. 
 
Remember, if you receive an email, text message or phone call pretending to be from the government and you are asked to provide your Aadhaar number or any financial details to sign up for the precautionary (booster) dose, it is a scam. If and when the booster doses are made available, it can only be procured through proper channels.
 
The police have appealed to the citizens not to fall prey to such scams and report it at the nearest police station if they receive any such calls or messages seeking details or offering a third dose (booster) in exchange for personal details.
 
So far in the last two years, online scamsters have cashed in on every opportunity to fool the citizens, taking advantage of the pandemic scaring and looting them of their hard-earned money. During FY2019-20, banks have reported frauds worth Rs244 crore related with ATM-debit card, credit card and internet banking.
 
Banking regulator Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its master directions issued on 18 February 2021, had advised banks to implement customer protection controls for their digital payment applications. These controls include, cautioning the customers against commonly known threats in recent times like phishing, vishing, reverse-phishing and remote access of mobile devices and educating the customers to secure and safeguard their account details, credentials, PIN, card details, and devices. 
 
Banks have been directed (by the RBI) to examine the fraud cases and report them to law enforcement agencies, examine staff accountability, complete proceedings against the erring staff expeditiously, take steps to recover the amount involved in the fraud, claim insurance wherever applicable and streamline the system as also the procedures so that frauds do not recur. 
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