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Kolkata police warn against Covid booster vaccine cheats

The targets so far have been senior citizens

Kinsuk Basu | Published 14.01.22, 07:22 AM
A crowded Koley Market in Sealdah on Thursday afternoon.

A crowded Koley Market in Sealdah on Thursday afternoon.

Gautam Bose

A new way for online fraudsters to cheat people — offering them registration for booster doses, the city police formally warned the citizens on Thursday.

An affirmation leads to a shared link, which in turn helps the crooks access necessary bank details. The ultimate consequence? Money from bank accounts siphoned off.

The targets so far have been senior citizens. The police said the fraudsters were using social media profiles to draw up the list of targets.

While police have not received any complaint about victims losing their money, officers said they have been receiving worried calls with people asking what they should do after receiving such calls.

The rise in the number of panic calls reaching Lalbazar over the last few days prompted city detective chief Murlidhar Sharma to take to Twitter on Thursday. “Fraudsters have found a new way to cheat people. They may call or send a message and ask people if they need a booster dose for Covid 19. If the answer is yes, they might send a link and ask for clicking the link and would then ask for OTP,” Sharma tweeted. “Be alert. This is a ploy to siphon off your money. If you receive such calls or text messages don’t download and don’t share any OTP.”

In most cases, the callers have posed as healthcare officials who have requested the “targets” to sign up for registration for the booster dose if they were interested. In some cases, the callers have underlined why a booster dose was necessary, officers said. 

“When a person agrees, he is sent an OTP. Within the next few minutes, a second call is made to know about the code. Thankfully, people who have received the calls so far have not shared the OTP code,” a senior officer of the detective department said.

Cyber crime experts said in some of the cases, the fraudsters may even ask to carry out a minimum bank transaction after getting the OTP.

“The request for a transaction can be for as small an amount as Re 1,” Sharma told The Telegraph. “One should immediately block the number and inform the police.”

Officers who have been tracking similar phishing cases said fraudsters were operating out of several cities. On January 1, Delhi police drew up an FIR after a person alleged that he had received a fraud call from the Prime Minister’s Office asking him to register for a booster dose. A link was sent on his Whatsapp from the “vaccine department.”

Mumbai police have already issued an advisory asking citizens to stay away from such fraud calls.

Last updated on 14.01.22, 01:19 PM

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