City restaurateurs are increasingly becoming the targets of fraudsters, who call up posing as customers and, in the pretext of placing orders for food, rob money from their Paytm accounts. Last Thursday, Rohan Apte, who owns Food Pallette in Kothrud’s Happy Colony, put out a post on Facebook foodies group, PuneEatOuts, sharing an incident that took place the same day, August 16.
“When I wasn’t present at the restaurant, a person called up and placed an order worth Rs 2,000. The person asked for the Paytm number to make the payment and, luckily, it was my number, so he called me up and told me to give him the OTP generated. I had received it but knew that OTP is not needed and should not be shared, so I didn’t share it. Being a fraudster, he cancelled the order instead of paying through cash or card. I thought I had only lost an order as I realised that several restaurant owners had fallen prey to this fraud and lost money after sharing the OTP,” said Apte.
The post drew several comments, mostly from the restaurant, cake shopowners and even home bakers, who shared similar experiences. Ajit Goel, the owner of Grillicious, lost Rs 850 a few weeks ago. “Actually, I was out catering at an event when I received this call. The caller said he needed 30 meat burgers the next day, around 12 pm. Order value was around Rs 5,000 and I asked for an advance. He said he will pay Rs 2,000 through Paytm. After 10 minutes, he called again and said I need to share the OTP as a new security feature needs me to identify myself, so I shared it. Within seconds, I got a message that Rs 850 had been deducted from my account. The number from which I was receiving the calls was switched off. I complained to Paytm, which asked me to lodge a police complaint. As the amount was small, I didn’t bother and took it as a learning experience,” he said.
Another restaurateur who lost money similarly two months ago is Nikhil Shinde, owner of Madhav Veg and Non-Veg, opposite Pune railway station. “The call came during rush hour when the staff is panicky anyway as they are multi-tasking. The person placed an order and insisted on paying through Paytm so my manager gave him the number. The person called again to say OTP was required. Usually, staffers are aware that OTP is not to be shared but because of the chaos, the staffer made a mistake and shared it. We had paid some utility bills that day and, therefore, less money was in the account. We realised the fraud after nearly Rs 1,000 had been deducted. This was when he tried a second transaction and called me up. Now suspicious, we didn’t share the OTP the second time. We complained to the company but did not lodge a police complaint as the loss wasn’t big,” he said.
Prasad Khanolkar, the owner of Cake and Cream Factory outlet on Fergusson College Road, too shared his experience. “I have received these calls at least four times and I don’t use Paytm, so I simply refuse. However, one of my friends who owns a cake shop on Tilak Road lost nearly Rs 15,000. A man called him and said he was calling from a hotel on Apte Road and needed a 5-kg cake delivered. My friend agreed and gave him the Paytm number and OTP, only to realise that he had lost money. In fact, I know of at least 20-25 cake shopowners who got similar calls and at least three of them lost money,” he said.
Vidith Shetty, owner of Malgudi Tiffin at Kothrud, said one of the reasons why people get cheated was that fraudsters speak confidently.
“It is just your own alertness, as we have heard that we should never share OTP. So we declined to share it and thought it’s better to lose the order. But if you hear the conmen, they are so confident, it’s easy to believe them,” he said.
Calls and messages to Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma and head of corporate communications, Sonia Dhawan, went unanswered.