Deceptive practices on the rise in online platforms

Deceptive practices are rampant these days with an alarming increase in scams related to house rentals, furniture, vehicles, clothing, and other commodities.

What is also worrisome is that it is mainly the youth involved in these fraudulent activities, particularly through the virtual wallet mobile application known as goBoB.

According to the data from the Thimphu police stations, a total of 66 cases related to deceptive practices have been registered from 2022 until last month this year. 38 individuals have been apprehended so far.

The online marketplace has become a breeding ground for fraudulent activities, with scammers taking advantage of unsuspecting individuals seeking affordable housing, furniture, vehicles, clothing, and more. These deceptive practices not only result in financial losses but also erode trust in the online marketplace.

One common scenario involves house rentals, where scammers create fake listings offering attractive properties at unbelievably low prices. They often request advance payments or security deposits before disappearing without a trace. Many desperate individuals, in need of affordable housing, fall victim to these scams.

In a recent case, an individual posted a 2 BHK apartment for rent on a Facebook page. Interested parties were asked to deposit a two-month security deposit on first-come first-serve basis. Some individuals complied and deposited the amount, only to have the scammers block them and vanish. This particular individual managed to scam a total of Nu 67, 000 as deposit advance for the apartment from many individuals who were desperately in need of affordable housing.

Fraudulent listings for furniture, vehicles, and clothing have also become prevalent. Scammers post enticing advertisements with low prices to lure potential buyers. However, upon making payments, victims either receive substandard products or nothing at all.

Another concerning trend involves fraudulent check writing, mBoB, and mPAY screenshot edits. In a recent case, an individual showed edited screenshots after shopping from a store. The shopkeeper, unaware of the deception, believed that the payment would arrive soon. However, after several days passed without receiving the payment, the shopkeeper reported the incident. Unfortunately, the same scammer had already defrauded many other shopkeepers.

Additionally, scammers are taking advantage of a virtual wallet mobile application called goBoB, of which many individuals are unaware. In some cases, scammers assure sellers that they will purchase commodities online and engage in bargaining to appear genuinely interested. They then ask for the buyers account numbers, which they use to register on goBoB. Once the account owner receives an OTP (One-Time Password), the scammers request the code and gain access to the account, allowing them to withdraw any amount. Mostly, youths without bank accounts register through BT or TCell numbers and use this application to transfer money without the owner’s knowledge.

Regarding goBoB, officials from the Bank of Bhutan (BOB) stated that its main objective is to achieve greater financial inclusion, promote cashless transactions, and bring every citizen and tourist into the payment ecosystem. However, they acknowledge receiving several complaints related to deceptive practices, particularly when the deceivers have access to the account numbers and mobile phones of the victims, often being their own relatives or close acquaintances. The bank is currently exploring for ways to prevent or mitigate such cases.

As deceptive practices continue to rise, Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) urges individuals to exercise caution and thoroughly verify the credibility of sellers before making any financial commitments.

RBP encourages the public to report any suspicious activities or incidents promptly, as this will aid in the detection and prevention of fraudulent practices.

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