India is currently experiencing a significant shift towards digitalization, with various aspects of daily life becoming more convenient through online platforms. From purchasing items and planning vacations to ordering food and groceries, the digital space has greatly simplified our lives. One notable advancement is the adoption of UPI (Unified Payment Interface) for online financial transactions, revolutionizing the way we handle cash. Nonetheless, as our online presence expands, so does our susceptibility to cyber threats. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in online scams, such as WhatsApp scams, part-time job scams, and movie scams. Even UPI payments are not exempt from these fraudulent activities.
Government data reveals a significant rise in UPI fraud cases over the past few years. In the fiscal year 2021-22, there were 84,000 reported instances of UPI fraud, compared to 77,000 cases in the previous fiscal year 2020-21. Shockingly, the Union Finance Ministry reports that the number of UPI fraud cases in the country reached over 95,000 in the fiscal year 2022-23, nearly doubling within a span of one year.
According to the police, scammers involved in UPI-related fraud employ a common tactic by persuading victims to download remote assistance software on their mobile phones. Once the victims are deceived and comply with the scammers' instructions, these cyber criminals gain control over their phones, subsequently seizing control of their e-wallets. The police emphasize that in most cases, the scammers pretend to be customer care executives, employing intimidation tactics by threatening individuals with wallet blockage unless they complete their KYC (Know Your Customer) process or update their Aadhaar or PAN details. Subsequently, under the guise of verification, the scammers request victims to download third-party access apps, thereby acquiring remote access to the victims' digital wallets, as explained by law enforcement officials.
What is a UPI scam?
Scammers use tactics to defraud people through fake messages and links. They use various methods to trick individuals into sending money via UPI or gaining control over their UPI apps. One approach involves sending fabricated messages, impersonating trusted entities, and directing victims to click on fake links. These links lead to counterfeit websites or apps designed to collect personal information or UPI credentials. Scammers may also pose as customer care representatives or authority figures, convincing victims to share their UPI details under false pretences. With this information, scammers gain control over victims' UPI apps, enabling them to conduct fraudulent transactions or access funds. Vigilance is crucial to avoid falling prey to such scams, including verifying message sources, refraining from clicking suspicious links, and safeguarding sensitive information.
Here are a few ways of UPI scam which is floating in the Indian market:
Fake UPI money request
Scammers often send money to a victim's UPI account and then make an urgent phone call, claiming it was a mistake. They request the victim to return the funds by clicking on a provided UPI link. Clicking the link unknowingly grants the scammer remote access to the victim's phone, digital wallet, and bank account, enabling them to hack and steal money.
Fake QR codes
Scammers exploit QR codes by deceiving victims into scanning them under the pretence of receiving money. However, when the victim scans the QR code, they are prompted to enter their UPI PIN. Once the PIN is entered, the money is deducted from the victim's account instead of the scammer's.
How to be safe from UPI frauds
- Scammers employ various methods, including tricking individuals into sharing their OTP (One-Time Password) or falling for fake money requests.
- However, in every UPI fraud, scammers consistently seek the victim's UPI PIN or OTP.
- It is important to note that UPI payments are generally considered safe and secure.
- The UPI PIN is a confidential security number and should never be shared with anyone.
- To avoid falling victim to UPI fraud, individuals should be cautious and never disclose their UPI PIN or OTP to anyone, even if prompted by scammers.
- Maintaining the confidentiality of personal security information is crucial in safeguarding against fraudulent activities.