As many as 8,373 complaints of fraud in online shopping were registered by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ National Consumer Helpline (NCH), between August 2016 (when its online complaint filing became operational) and March 2019, according to Danve Raosaheb Dadarao, the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on July 9, the minister said that “a three tier quasi-judicial mechanism had been set up at district, state and central levels for better protection of the interests of consumers and to provide simple and speedy redressal of consumer disputes including online frauds.” Dadarao was responding to opposition MP Darshana Vikram Jardoshi’s question about what the government had done to protect consumers from online fraud. He also said that in 913 of the  8,373 cases registered, NCH had advised the complainants to approach the local police.

There are two noteworthy things here: first, it wasn’t clear from the minister’s answer if the 8,373 figure included only complaints registered on the NCH’s website, or also included those received via SMS and calls. Second, Jardoshi had asked Dadarao about the total number of complaints regarding fraud in online shopping for the the past five years. However, the minister provided figures only for the past three years.

Recent cases of fraud in online shopping

In May, an elderly woman in Pune was cheated of Rs 45,000 on the pretext of exchanging a product that she had purchased from an e-commerce website, as per TOI. The woman had received an incorrect order and made a call to the customer service centre, who then asked her for her bank account details and an OTP. The woman’s husband found out the next day that money from the account had been transferred to accounts in West Bengal and Gujarat.

The same month, an elderly man  from Pune was duped online of Rs 1 lakh by a person posing as a financial accounting consultant. The man had booked round-trip tickets for his wife, but received a call from the fraudster saying that he didn’t mention the baggage weight. The caller then asked the man to send him his booking details and bank name along with an SMS code that he’d receive for verification. He also asked the man to download an application for “work purposes”. Six transactions worth Rs 9,994 were made from the man’s bank account some time later.

And in April, a Jodhpur-based doctor was duped online of Rs 2.62 lakhs on the pretext of claiming free gifts, after purchasing a laundry bag that cost just Rs 399. The doctor received a call from a woman, who convinced him to make the purchase through his credit card. Following that, he got a call from a person asking him to pay GST of Rs 5,580 as he had won a laptop worth Rs 72,000 as part of a ‘deal of the day scheme’ on the website.