NEW DELHI: With the sudden increase in Covid cases across India due to the new variant Omicron, which is spreading quickly, citizens now want to take a third vaccine or a booster to build immunity in their bodies to fight against disease. But crooks are taking advantage of Omicron’s fear and have found a new way to make money by “helping” people get vaccinated.

What is the new Covid vaccine scam

Crooks posing as government health officials are calling on gullible citizens to reserve their booster shot. The scammers mainly target the elderly and other eligible people. Interestingly, scammers are well prepared to deceive people. Speaking of the modus operandi, a person claiming the health service will call an elderly person and ask for personal details such as vaccine dose details for the first and second vaccines as well as address, mobile phone number and other details.

Then after a few days, another call from another person claiming to be from the health care department came in to help the person book a callback. To make the call look original, the personal details are confirmed and the fraudulent caller convinces the person that they will receive a message on their phone number registered with an OTP. It will then ask the OTP to confirm the callback reservation. In other cases, the caller may also ask the victim to download a particular app on their phone, which is mostly remote desktop apps like AnyDesk or TeamViewer, to help them with the booking process.

Now the problem is that the OTP is mainly generated for the UPI money request function or it is also observed that the scammer already has the victim’s bank details in their database. If they don’t have the bank details, they can ask for the bank details and OTP to make the payment and book the slot online. The Prosecutor’s Office is simply asked to transfer money from the victim’s bank accounts, either through UPI or through Internet Banking.

Scammers target rural dwellers or the elderly who may not be familiar with how UPI, remote desktop applications, or internet banking work. A compelling story is told just to get the OTP for the wire transfer.

How to protect yourself from such scams

The first thing to note is that government officials will never call anyone to reserve vaccine slots. In fact, the possibility of registering by telephone does not exist. The only way to book a Covid vaccine is through the CoWIN platform. You can use CoWIN desktop website or Aarogya Setu app. You can also go directly to any vaccination center to register and get vaccinated.

As far as the Office of the Prosecutor is concerned, no government official will ever ask an Office of the Prosecutor to reserve a slot for vaccines. Additionally, all OTPs are meant to be kept secret and should not be shared with anyone.

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