Scammers have found out a new way to dupe people posting property ads online on platforms like Magicbricks, 99acres, Commonfloor and others. Be it flat owners or someone looking for a flat on rent, these scammers have figured a way to make money. And to gain the trust of people, they are posing as officers from Indian Army, CISF, police and other government organisations. What’s concerning is that these scammers are providing copies of authentic government IDs like canteen cards, Indian Army ID cards, etc to convince victims for a deal.
How This New Property Scam Works
A person posing as an army officer contacts the owner, expresses interest in the property, and asks to pre-pay the deposit or advance without even seeing the property first. Usually flabbergasted from the interest, the owners (the victims) usually end up approving UPI money requests, or are manipulated into sending money.
Additionally, they may also target the other end of the spectrum—posing as property owners and posting fraudulent listings on websites like Olx.in, Magicbricks, and others, and then demanding a few months’ worth of security deposit or advance before abandoning the conversation—deceiving unsuspecting people who are looking to rent or buy a property.
In May, News18 Tech reported how a Jaipur-based flat owner got cheated after he posted an ad for his flat for rent. The fraudster, posing as an army officer named Deepak Pawar, connected with him through MagicBricks. The scammer managed to fool the man and deceived him of almost a month’s worth of deposit.
Scammers Are Stealing Defence Personnel’s Identities
Our investigation showed that these scammers are likely operating under aliases, such as Deepak Pawar, and have acquired real national identification cards, such as Aadhaar and Army Canteen cards, in order to convince property owners of their legitimacy. The ID cards that News18 Tech saw are real and belong to real people. Therefore, it is possible that these scammers have stolen these identity cards.
Additionally, the scammers share personal photos, including those of their families—to give victims the impression that they are hardworking, family-oriented people who are working for the country. They often share patriotic sentiments to manipulate their victims. As a result, this fraud is not just limited to scamming property owners out of money; it also involves identity theft.
How To Be Safe?
It is undeniable that all Indian defense personnel deserve respect for the hard work and risks they take to protect the country from threats. However, it is also important to be aware of the possibility that someone may be impersonating them in order to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
Here are some tips to prevent becoming a victim of the fake army officer scam:
- Do not send or accept digital payments until you have met the property owner or tenant in person.
- Always verify the identification that someone shares online, and ask for more proof if necessary. Do not blindly trust someone just because they have shared an official ID card with you; it could have been stolen.
- Before deciding to rent or buy property, always meet the person behind the listing in person to verify that they are who they claim to be. If they are a scammer, they will likely refuse to meet you in person.
- Do not share OTPs or install software that looks suspicious on your devices. This could give scammers remote access to your devices and your money and sensitive information.
- Do not share ID cards such as Aadhaar, PAN, or Defence IDs with random people who contact you on online websites. Scammers may use these IDs to scam more people.
You can also verify the authenticity of an Aadhaar card number if someone shares it with you. Here’s how:
- Go to https://uidai.gov.in/en/.
- Navigate to Aadhaar Services > Verify an Aadhaar Number.
- Next, login using your own Aadhaar number and OTP.
- Now, enter the sender’s Aadhaar number, and then, you will be able to check if an Aaadhaar number exists in the database or not.