Fake e-com websites con Indians amid festive season boom
As leading e-commerce platforms gear up for record revenues in the festive season, several fake and malicious e-commerce platforms have proliferated in the country, selling smartphone accessories to luxury watches. The cyber authorities have failed to protect innocent users, who are falling prey to online scamsters using the Facebook Page ad network to con Indians. wellbuymall.com is one such portal that has conned thousands of Indian users. The portal, now ceases to exist, has fooled them into buying technology products, only to disappear once orders were made and the money transferred. Sujeet Verma, one such cyber fraud victim, posted on scamadviser.com: "I have ordered and paid online but no response and they did not deliver the ordered item. They are FRAUD." Sunil Gupta, another user, said: "I ordered an SSD (solid state drive) and paid online. This website is fraud but unfortunately supported by Facebook and all advertisements are displayed on my Facebook account. After paying, no responses from website." Ayush, a Gurgaon-based user, recently ordered a mini-pocket charger for smartphones for Rs 1,668, only to realise that his shipment was never going to arrive. He has now registered a complaint against the e-commerce website at the Gurguram Police Cyber Crime Cell. The url of wellbuymall.com now takes users to a message in Chinese, which reads: Site Not Found. Your request did not find the corresponding site in the web server!" The modus operandi is simple: The advertiser creates a Facebook Page/Profile, and starts selling via their Page on the social media platform, taking users to their portal. Once they receive payments for their orders, they delay in dispatching the products and by the time Facebook completes its feedback process to understand whether the advertiser is legit or a scam, the fraudsters make quick money and shut their operations once Facebook declares they are cyber offenders and treats them as "unhealthy". According to cyber experts, the Facebook process to gather users' feedback and decide on the "health" of the advertiser's Page takes about a month -- which is a long enough window for cyber criminals to con users and flee. "Facebook has a slow customer feedback process to declare an advertiser 'not fit' and act on the advertiser as part of its terms and conditions. Fraudsters take advantage of this and con innocent Indians before they are declared 'unhealthy' and blocked on Facebook and Instagram Pages," independent cyber security researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia told IANS. These scamsters pay insignificant money to advertise their products via Facebook Pages, display fake and cheap Chinese products as genuine on their e-commerce portals and con users, he added. Several such fake e-commerce platforms are now operational as India goes through a record festive season, ready to generate sales worth about $9.2 billion, up 42 per cent (year-over-year) from the estimate of $6.5 billion in festive month sales during 2020. In just the first week (October 3 to 10), it is estimated that $6.4 billion of online sales, about 70 per cent of the festive month total online sales, will happen. "The only way to avoid falling prey to such fake e-commerce platforms is to trust the leading ones like Flipkart, Amazon etc., and shop online via them," Rajaharia said.