Tech-savvy scammers try to steal flood relief donations

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Even as a large part of the country grapples with torrential rain and floods, scammers have set up fake bank IDs to get their hands on at least a part of the donations meant for disaster relief.

For example, the original UPI ID for donating to Kerala’s disaster relief fund is keralacmdrf@sbi. However, given that many in North India spell Kerala as Kerela, someone has set up an id kerelacmdrf@sbi, linking it to his or her personal bank account.

Any money donated to the misspelled UPI address will end up in that person’s bank account, instead of reaching its intended recipient.

Even though such IDs can be deactivated by banks or the National Payments Corporation of India, they continue to be active as of now.

Given that thousands of people will be typing out the UPI ID by typing out the address manually, it is almost impossible to ensure that no misspelling occurs. As such, such scamsters are likely to have already received a substantial amount of money through their schemes.

Benefiting from misspelt requests is almost as old as the Internet itself.

Typically, any well-known url or domain name has several misspelt variants set up by people trying to benefit from human error.

For example, a url like Facebook.com could spawn sites like Facbook.com, Facebok.com etc..

However, in case of UPI IDs and bank accounts, it is much easier for authorities to track down any misdirection of funds.

Users too can exercise caution to avoid being cheated in the name of donations. On some apps, users can click on ‘verify ID’ after typing in the UPI ID to see who has registered that ID. However, this method does not work in all cases and should not be relied upon as a fail-safe method.

The full and authentic list of bank accounts and UPI ids for making a donation to the respective state disaster relief fund can be found on the state’s official website. A state’s official website will be in the format of xxx.gov.in, where xxx stands for the name of the state.

For example, the full list of UPI IDs and bank accounts belonging to the Kerala Disaster Relief Fund can be found at https://donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in/#donation

In addition to such high-tech frauds, many scamsters also use low-tech methods to get their hands on donations. One such widely used method is to pretend to be running a collection center for flood relief materials.

In a recent case, a man in Kochi in Kerala was discovered to be running a scam after a would-be donor got suspicious when the man insisted that he will only accept fresh/new items.

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