Call to make dinner booking at Mumbai eatery proves costly for woman ‘duped’ of Rs 85,000

Mohamed Thaver
On reaching the restaurant, Madan found that the number did not belong to the restaurant. Express photo by Prem nath Pandey 12 june 16

A 34-year-old woman was reportedly duped of Rs 85,000 in a series of fraudulent transactions while trying to make a table reservation at a Santacruz-based restaurant on a number listed online, police said. The number, they added, did not belong to the restaurant and had been fraudulently added by scammers to trick people.

The woman, Manpreet Madan, and her relatives were headed to Shiv Sagar restaurant, on Juhu Tara Road in Santacruz, for dinner on Sunday, when one of them called the food joint on a contact number listed on Google to make a reservation. While the call went unanswered twice, they received a call back from the same number a little while later.

A person, who reportedly identified himself as Deepak Mishra and staff from the restaurant, claimed that there was a 45-60 minutes waiting period for getting a table. Police said Mishra reportedly also told that they could pay Rs 25 and skip the queue. He told them to make the payment using Google Pay, a digital wallet platform. Mishra said they would receive a message on their mobile phone which they would have to forward to another phone number that would, in turn, send another link where the payment could be made.

Madan, whose phone number was forwarded to Mishra from the transaction, reportedly received a message, which she then forwarded to a second number from where she received a second message that contained a Google page link which had ‘enter UPI pin’ and ‘submit’ options.

According to Madan, after she entered the details, instead of Rs 25, a total of Rs 85,000 was debited from her bank account in a series of transactions. Madan reportedly called Mishra and sought to speak to the restaurant manager, but he hung up and stopped answering the calls. On reaching the restaurant, Madan found that the number did not belong to the restaurant.

Madan later approached Santacruz police, where an FIR was registered on the charge of cheating against unidentified persons. Sources said that prima facie, the call seemed to originate from West Bengal.

An employee at the Juhu branch of Shiv Sagar restaurant said they were aware that a fake phone number had been listed as the restaurant’s contact details online.

The staff member said the restaurant had submitted a complaint to Google and the local police two weeks ago, however, till late Wednesday evening, the listing for the restaurant continued to show the fraudulent number.

The city has witnessed a slew of cases where fraudsters have changed the listings of wine shops and banks and entered their own numbers. When unsuspecting people call these numbers with queries, the fraudsters pose as employees of the establishment and take money from them under various pretexts.

A Google spokesperson said, “We work hard to fight against spammers and protect people from scams. When these fake numbers are reported, we remove them.”

On Google, apart from owners listing their particular establishments, people can make changes to the details of other shops and establishments, which is seen as an effort to keep the latest information available online.

Cyber expert Shubham Singh said that one should be cautious in case they are asked to provide bank account details to someone rather than making a direct online payment.