Home delivery of alcohol is illegal — anyone telling you otherwise is probably trying to run a scam
- Jamtara scammers are using the lockdown to scam people with the promise of alcohol
- As shelves at home run dry, people are looking to Google for their liquor needs only to get duped.
- The scammers ask for advance payments, bank details and even offer ‘happy hour’ deals — only to leave you disappointed at the end of the day.
If you have to place an order, make sure you’re only calling up a known contact and avoid making a payment in advance. Because, Jamtara scammers are making a comeback.
The Jamtara scammers
Jamtara, a small village in the state of Jharkhand is known for being the cybercrime hub in India. During the lockdown, shopping might have taken a hit, but cybercriminals found a new way to dupe bank account holders — this time scamming people looking to buy liquor during lockdown.
Ordinarily, if a person is stuck at home and they’re looking to score some alcohol, their first instinct will be to a quick Google Search on liquor shops located close home. Most listings come with an accompanying number than you can call to check if the shop will deliver.
However, there’s no way to easily verify if the listed number is genuine — or just somebody posing as the shop owner but located in some other part of the country.
In the melee, anyone who’s desperate enough to transfer money in advance may end up losing a lot more than just the cost of alcohol.
How does the liquor scam work?
Let’s say you find a phone number on Google for the nearest liquor shop. You call them, and they say that they would be more than happy to deliver — provided you can make the payment beforehand.
You’ll wait around for two or three hours before calling them to ask why your delivery hasn’t arrived yet. The people on the other end will likely say that they haven’t received the payment yet. However, if you share your bank details — they may be able to verify the transaction on their system.
If you do share those details, the so-called ‘liquor shop’ will call you back in another 30 minutes to let you know that your payment has come through. But, that’s not where the scam ends. Since they have your confidential details at hand, they need your OTP to siphon off more money so they’ll try and lure you in with a ‘happy hour’ deal. In order to avail of the scheme, you have to just forward the OTP SMS that you get from your bank so that they can push the payment from their end.
Within a few minutes, a large sum of money is likely to disappear from your account. You can call as many times as you would like, no-one will pick up the phone now. And, there won’t be any alcohol around to drown your sorrows in.
How can you protect yourself from Jamtara scammers and their alcohol scheme?
It’s obviously better if you have the number of your wine and beer shop beforehand. If you don’t, it’s probably better to forego the idea of buying alcohol — especially since it’s illegal to be supplying liquor during the lockdown anyway.
If you do end up calling a number that’s promising the delivery of alcohol, choose to call a landline if the option is available. And, tell them that you will authorise the payment once the delivery is at your doorstep.
Assuming you’re rich enough and a bottle of alcohol isn’t going to eat into your budget, you may be coerced into making the payment. But if the delivery still doesn’t show up, under no circumstances should you be sharing your bank details — with anyone.
Not your debit card details, savings account details — and especially not your one-time-password (OTP). OTP is a secondary layer of protection, put in place specifically for the bank to ensure that you are the one authorising any payment that is going out of your account.
If you share that OTP and someone else uses it for a transaction, the bank is going to assume that it’s still you making the payment at the end of the day. It’s a form of identity theft and you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself.
Excise departments and cybercrime cells are already dealing with a variety of complaints with scammers using the names of well-known liquor shops to snatch money from accounts. In Kolkata, the cybersecurity wing of the police has received five complaints so far.
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