While UPI (UPI) is emerging as the most preferred digital payment method for Indians, it is unfortunately also topping the means for scammers to defraud unsuspecting users.
In Gujarat alone, 70% of complaints about online financial scams in the past year were about UPI payment fraud. Between January 2022 and February 2, 2023, the Gujarat CID (Crime) received 88,000 cybercrime complaints on its 1930 helpline. As many as 78,005 citizens had called to report online financial fraud. Of these, 52,575 cases, or 70%, were about UPI fraud.
Among the eight municipal corporations in the state, Ahmedabad city registered 12,581, the maximum number of such complaints. Surat followed with 6,471 complaints, Vadodara with 3,936 cases, and Rajkot with 1,879 cases.
UPI is an instant real-time payment system developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), facilitating inter-bank, peer-to-peer, and person-to-merchant transactions.
Getting someone to disclose confidential financial information is the classic way to carry out UPI fraud. The fraudsters use several methods to con victims. The most used is the SMS phishing scam, followed by fraud via access through screen mirroring apps. Then, there is the classic OTP pin fraud. To commit phishing scams, the fraudsters blast bulk SMSes offering lucrative deals.
“Fraudsters can send you unauthorized payment links through SMSes. These fake bank URLs will look identical to the original URL. If you click the link quickly, it will direct you to the UPI app installed on your phone and ask you to click for auto-debit. Once you give permission, the amount will get debited from the UPI app instantly,” explained a CID crime (cybercell) officer.
The officer cautioned against clicking on a fake URL. “It is also known to infect your phone with a virus/malware designed to steal any financial information stored on the device. Apart from this, fraudsters also conduct scams by posing as bank representatives who will ask you to download a screen mirroring app for ‘verification purposes’. This allows them to gain full access to the phone.”
Many scammers also smooth talk their victims into giving up their pin number, says the officer, adding: “Victims forget the golden rule that a pin or OTP is needed only to send money and not receive it.”