‘Socks for iPhone 7’: Hackers using e-commerce sites to dupe Kashmiris

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There’re growing instances where hackers through e-commerce sites are tricking Kashmiris by delivering cheap and bogus items. With no replace-and-refund option, the customers are often left high and dry.

By Sheikh Saqib

Inside Srinagar’s Hyderpora branch of India’s leading logistics e-commerce company, Ecom Express Private Limited, Abid is preparing to ride his two-wheeler into the bustling bazaars of old Srinagar in order to deliver gadgets, fashion accessories and other things to his eagerly-waiting clients.

The supplies in his large and crammed blue backpack also include some empty wrapped-and-sealed parcels. These, he says, are dispatched to different places by an array of dupe online shopping websites operated by various hackers across the globe.

Twenty-four-year old Abid works in the delivery staff of Ecom Express since a year now. As he readies for the round, he makes a few phone calls to make sure he warns his clients beforehand against receiving such empty parcels.

Over the phone he suggests them to better cancel their orders in order to not fall prey to such hackers who mint money by fooling and snookering innocent people.

“People here are not aware of hackers,” says Abid, “and when we suggest them to cancel their orders they become suspicious of us and think we might keep the material if they turn it down.”

Recently, when Abid detected one such parcel in his bag, he called his client and informed him about the small box even when he was suffering a low strike rate of the month.

“He had ordered a Redmi phone from some online store that campaign on social media networks,” he says. “When the order was finally here to deliver, I suspected an empty box.”

It had no weight. He called the client and told him about it. But he refused to ship it back.

“I also told him that the item has no replace-and-refund option. He decided to receive it and when I went to deliver it, I took the sum of Rs 14000 from him and pleaded him to open the box in front of me,” Abid says.

To his client’s shock, the box was empty and he lost fourteen thousand to nothing.

“He then pleaded me to give his money back but it was too late as he had already unwrapped the box.”

The victims of such online fraud, Abid says, cannot even contact these websites, for they share no contact details with their customers.

Sixteen-year-old Rayan had just passed his matriculation exam when he saw an advertisement for iPhone 7 on Facebook. The phone cost him a mere sum of ten thousand which is otherwise worth around Rs 50,000.

“I thought it a very good deal and without informing my parents and elder siblings I ordered the phone through Credit card as it had no cash on delivery (COD) option. I thought I will surprise my people at home but it turned out something else,” he says.

When the item was finally delivered, he opened the box in excitement and received three pieces of socks worth not more than 200 rupees!

“I could not claim my money back because it was all hacking stuff,” says Rayan with a sense of regret on his face. “The money was gone but the tag of buying socks worth ten thousand is still there.”

There are many such websites that look as some verified online shopping store. One such website is Shop Clues Momies which is very much the same as Shop Clues.

“There are people who order things from Shop Clues Momies and think they have ordered from the certified app of Shop Clues. They have to understand the difference before they risk their money,” says Abid.

Last week when Abid was on his morning round, he called his client to see if she was available to receive her parcel from Shop Clues Momies.

“She told me to come to her house to deliver the parcel. I went there and before handing it over to her I told her about the website but she became angry and asked me to focus on my work. I kept quiet,” he says.

Abid took the money and asked her to open the box in front of him. And when she opened, it had a toothbrush in it. She had ordered cosmetics worth rupees six thousand.

“She then raised her voice and people crowded the place,” he recalls. “She tried to tag me as a thief but some youngsters around were quite aware of this business and helped me get out of there.”

Many around the world question e-commerce companies like Ecom Express for tying up with hackers and delivering their items.

But as Abid says that these hackers might be sharing some good amount of money with the insiders of such companies that encourage them to do more business with them.

“There are people in the companies who work for such hackers,” he says. “They pass their stock through security grids and help their stuff reaching to various places.”

In return, Abid says, they might be getting a hefty sum of money.

“At first, we used to think how it reaches to us via Ecom Express which is so trusted here. But later we understood this business and accept it as it is,” he says.

But then, not always these websites give you socks over the phone.

Eighteen-year-old Haider was in 9th class when he ordered ten pen drives for ten rupees each in the summer of 2014. He received them after a week.

“They are otherwise worth rupees five hundred each. I distributed them among my friends. Three of them are still with me and they are working good,” says Haider.

As Abid and his colleagues are trying their best to save people from such traps, they also worry about losing their job.

“Informing people about such things is against the rules and regulations of our company. If they would get to know that we aware people about hackers, we will be kicked out and lose our job,” he says.

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