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NPCI joins hands with Delhi Police to trace and block fraudulent medical and oxygen suppliers: Report


The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is working with the Delhi Police and the Home Ministry to identify and block fraudulent actors who are duping unsuspecting people desperately looking to buy oxygen supplies and other medical resources, the Hindustan Times reported.

In the wake of the pandemic, criminals have been defrauding people through fraudulent websites and social media accounts. These fraudsters essentially dupe customers into sending them money under the guise of charitable donations, volunteer work, medical supplies and other resources. The first instance of COVID-19 related payment frauds took place last year when fake Unified Payments Interface (UPI) accounts were created purporting to be official channels through people could donate to the PM CARES COVID-19 relief fund.

According to the report, the Delhi Police’s cyber crime cell is now working with the Home Ministry and NPCI to identify these fraud actors, block their UPI handles and bank accounts. As of Wednesday, the Delhi Police had registered 61 First-Information-Reports under the penal provisions for cheating and fraud related to COVID-19 medicines or oxygen.

The report said the police will also block the use of mobile phones used as part of these frauds with the help of the NPCI. Upon receiving a complaint from the public against such frauds, the police will contact the NPCI to freeze the bank account of the suspect. The police will also work with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ensure that phone numbers used by the fraudsters undergo the mandatory customer verification process, it added.

Details of Police-NPCI-MHA operations

According to complaints on Twitter, these fraudsters are using social media to identify desperate patients and family members in need of medical supplies. Once this person is identified, the fraudster contacts them with the promise of delivering the necessary medical resources. But the fraudsters require an advance payment which unsuspecting customers comply with, only to find out that they had been duped in a scam. It is important to note that not only criminals have been found to engaged in these frauds, but also oxygen related distributors, pharmacies, ambulance services and others.

According to a Delhi Police statement, a copy of which MediaNama has seen, the proposed coordination efforts will work in the following manner:

  • After victims call the cyber crime helpline the police will take some important information about the transaction
  • The Police create a token and the beneficiary bank, wallet or merchant will be told to trace and stop the defrauded the amount (if it is still within the bank account and not withdrawn by the fraudster)
  • Once the bank, wallet or merchant is digitally notified, the fund transfer to the fraudster is blocked
  • In case the fraudster withdraws the money and moves it to another account or wallet, the police repeats the process and then sends another digital notice
  • This process of notifying banks, wallets and merchant accounts will be repeated till the defrauded amount is traced and kept on a temporary hold, unless the fraudster has withdrawn the funds in cash or used it to purchase goods and services.
  • Complainants need to lodge an official complaint on the cyber crime website, 24 hours after reporting the incident
  • Once the official complaint has been registered, the Police can then proceed to retrieve the funds and return it to the complainant. It will also track the fraudster and take them to task under the penal provisions
  • If the complainant does not file an official complaint in time, the payment intermediary will release the funds that were blocked

“The fundamental and most critical aspect here is the ‘Time of the Reporting Incident’- crime data analytics have indicated that where the victim reports an incident within an hour of the fraud having been committed, there exists a high probability in ensuring that the money doesn’t reach the cheat and is ‘stopped’ within the financial system regulated by the Reserve Bank of India,” the statement said.

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Reports on banking, payments, fintech and crypto-curencies. Additional reporting on media regulations, data protection and other areas.

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