BHOPAL: While the central and state governments are still working to put in place a mechanism for administering the COVID-19 vaccine, the cyber fraudsters are already at work.
The cyber cell of Bhopal police is probing more than six complaints in which cyber fraudsters have promised commoners in the MP capital first shots of the vaccine, even before the doctors and other frontline corona warriors get those vaccine shots.
While one such complaint has been submitted to the city police's cyber cell by an alert college student, some families, whose members have already been hit by the deadly pandemic too have received phone calls from fraudsters for advance booking of the first shots of the vaccines.
"The callers are posing as agents of government agencies engaged in vaccine research and delivery system and trying to make people believe that trusting and paying them advance money directly into certain bank accounts, will render advance booking of the COVID-19 vaccines and their first shots even before the doctors and other frontline health workers. But fortunately, instead of trusting these fraudsters, the commoners in Bhopal have reported the matter to the police," additional SP (cyber cell) of Bhopal police Rajat Sakhlecha said on Monday.
The fraudsters mostly calling from the Jharkhand and Mewat region of Rajasthan and Haryana are also sending some links to the commoners to first convince them that they are genuine representatives of government agencies and later asking their targets to send basic details on the fraudsters phone numbers. To further convince their targets, the fraudsters are even sending OTP numbers to portray that if the demanded advance sum ranging between Rs 500 to Rs 5000 is credited into certain accounts, the advance booking and first shots of the COVID-19 vaccines will be a certainty.
"Till now the fraudsters haven't been able to phish money from the targets, but this modus operandi by cybercriminals is likely to increase in coming days, as the news about the government preparing to start vaccination in the new year gains momentum," added Sakhlecha.
Importantly, Interpol had recently issued an Orange Notice to its 194 member nations, which had outlined potential criminal activity in relation to falsification, theft, and illegal advertising and promise of COVID-19 and flu vaccines.
And the promise of advance booking of COVID-19 vaccination and the first shot of the vaccine is not the lone COVID-19 related modus operandi being used by the fraudsters.
"There have been complaints where the fraudsters have sent to some users pictures of COVID-19 patients admitted in ICUs needing urgent money for life-saving treatment, followed by requests to donate money in some bank accounts," the ASP-Bhopal Cyber Cell informed.
Even at the beginning of the pandemic and related lock-down, there were complaints and cases of fraudsters duping commoners by promising cheap sanitisers and face masks on major e-commerce portals, particularly as the sanitizers and face masks were highly-priced in that period.