The Haryana Police said they received over 500 complaints from people in several districts, saying they were duped by unidentified persons posing as health officials.
The perpetrators would allegedly ask victims to register for a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, share a one-time password (OTP) sent on their mobile phones, and then transfer money from the victims’ accounts to theirs.
Police said there has been a significant rise in this booster dose scam over the last three months–the Gurugram police received 19 such complaints in November 2021, 27 in December 2021, and 33 in January so far. Similarly, Faridabad police received over 111 complaints since November 2021. Similar complaints have been filed in Hisar, Jind, Rohtak, Rewari, Palwal and Nuh, said police.
KK Rao, commissioner of police, said that the suspects call people, pretending to be officials of the health department, ask for their vaccination status and tell them to register for a booster dose. “Once the person agrees, they send them an OTP and ask them to share it, following which money is transferred out from the victim’s account. In many cases, the perpetrators even send a registration link if the person has taken both doses, inform them of their eligibility for the booster dose and ask them to download applications for remote access and get all the details through their computers or laptops and dupe them,” he said.
Rao said the suspects give the victims no time to check if the call is authentic or not and take advantage of the details they already have (of the victims’) with data of both the vaccinations.
Police said gangs are majorly targeting senior citizens and people who are not tech-savvy so they can easily dupe them.
Sameer Kapoor, a restaurant owner in DLF Phase 4, said that he received a call last week. The caller identified himself as a health official from Civil Hospital, Gurugram, and asked him if he was willing to register himself for the booster dose. “I checked on the Truecaller app, and it read Health Department, so I believed it, and when he sent an OTP and asked me to share it with him, I did. I was duped of ₹57,000. I have shared all details with the police,” he said.
Suneel Rao, a resident of Sector 23, said that he was duped of ₹82,000 after he clicked on a link sent by the man posing as a health official. The man accessed Rao’s laptop remotely and transferred his money to other accounts. “The suspect called and shared details of both my vaccination status and my Aadhaar card. So I believed the call to be genuine.I followed his instructions then and clicked the link,” he said.
On January 17, the health department had issued a statement warning people against the rise in fraudsters posing as officials from the department, calling people and asking them to get their booster doses. Officials said that the health department does not call people asking them to get vaccinated. The chief medical officer appealed to the residents to beware of such calls.
Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer, Gurugram said that such cases of fraud are being reported from different parts of the country. “No such calls are made by the health department and registration on the Co-Win portal is mandatory for the booster dose,” he said, adding that people should be careful while sharing their details and OTP with unidentified persons.