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How to stay aware and safe from COVID-19 scams

Priya Patankar|4 min read|30 June, 2021

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How to stay aware and safe from COVID-19 scams

Since the second wave of Covid-19 struck India, fraudsters have been using novel ways to trick people into sending money to unknown accounts and phone numbers. In the pretext of helping with allocating hospital beds, oxygen supplies and vaccines, these fraudsters have been duping people.

Here’s a PhonePe guide on the scenarios where you need to exercise caution.

Covid-19 vaccine registration

There are several instances of cybercriminals defrauding people of their money by promising them an advance booking on their first vaccination shot or updating the government database. The modus operandi is simple.

  • Make calls to people, especially those aged above 45 years, asking them if they have taken the first Covid-19 jab
  • People who confirm that they have taken the vaccination shot are asked to share the OTP numbers sent to their mobiles under the pretext of updating the database
  • People who deny taking the first shot of the vaccine are still asked to share the OTP sent to their mobile phones, for helping them with an advance booking

While this two-step process may seem innocuous, sharing the OTP number received on the mobile number could have unintended consequences such as fraudsters getting access to critical information or apps on your phone.

The (Un)Verified Leads on Social media

During the second wave of pandemic, a large number of social media posts were floating around connecting people with verified sellers of vaccines and other treatment equipment including the availability of hospital beds.

Making use of this information, many fraudsters posing as Oxygen cylinder distributors fleeced many people after charging them for medication.

Fake messages were shared over WhatsApp and SMS under the guise of free Covid vaccine registration services to steal the personal information of users through a malware link embedded in the message. This allowed fraudsters access to your device and accounts associated with the same.

Misleading advertisements regarding injections and essential medical supplies on social media channels caused much anxiety to family and friends who were anyway under tremendous pressure.

In fact many people also fell prey to fake profiles of doctors who advertised “verified leads” for medicines and oxygen cylinders on counterfeit Facebook and Instagram handles.

These fraudsters also scammed people by asking for advance payment for injections and rarely available medicines and then blocked calls or changed numbers after receiving the payment.

How to verify fraud websites and donate towards Covid-related causes

As India stood united against Coronavirus, many people came forward to donate and lend a helping hand. If you are willing to donate money to any organization professing to assist affected people, you must visit the organization’s website to know what they do and whether their claims regarding Covid assistance match with the content shared on the site.

Check if the site’s address starts with ‘HTTPS’ or ‘HTTP’. A website starting with ‘HTTPS’ will have an SSL certificate and is deemed far more secure than a site starting with ‘HTTP’. However, if you are unsure of the validity of the organization you want to donate to or wish to see your money being utilized by verified accounts, you can use the PhonePe app and click on its ‘Donation’ tab.

How to donate using the PhonePe app?

PhonePe ensures that you donate to verified NGOs and lists them on its site for your reference. You can donate towards an NGO listed on PhonePe through the following steps.

Step 1: Tap the ‘Donate’ tab under the ‘Recharge & Pay Bills’ tab on your PhonePe home screen.

Step 2: Choose from the list of NGOs or other organizations or the cause to whom you wish to donate to.

Step 3: Enter your name and email address.

Step 4: Enter the donation amount.

Step 5: Choose from the payment modes listed. You can donate using BHIM UPI, your debit card or your PhonePe wallet.

Step 6: Tap the ‘Donate’ tab and authorize the payment.

Here’s how you can use PhonePe to verify fraud phone numbers

Your vigilance in identifying fraud or spam calls seeking your details or promising you unwarranted rewards can help other people be aware of the same. If you are getting calls/unverified contacts for medical care and oxygen supplies and are unsure regarding its veracity, you may log on to to check the list of numbers from which people have received fraudulent calls. You may also update the number that you had received in the list to warn people against such frauds.

Remember: PhonePe does not endorse any call seeking your personal information or asking you to share sensitive information such as OTP/CVV or UPI MPIN.

Dos and Don’ts to protect yourself against frauds

Do’s: It is not difficult to avoid getting scammed by fake phone calls. All you must ‘Do’ is to

  • Check for the receiver’s details before sending money to an unknown person
  • Verify the receiver’s details including the account holder’s name, bank account details, and contact details before transferring the money.
  • Do not install any third-party app based on hearsay. Download only verified and trusted apps from the play store or app store.
  • Report to your bank or cyber cell immediately if you have sent money to an unknown person.
  • Block the receiver number from your phone and account on the PhonePe platform to disallow the receiver from requesting money in the future.
  • Report the fraud incident by logging on to your PhonePePhonePe app “Help” section and use “Account security & Reporting fraudulent activity”. Alternatively log on to
  • Always remember that you are never required to enter your UPI PIN to receive money on any UPI app.

Don’ts: To avoid your money being siphoned off by fraudsters, you must

  • Never share your UPI PIN and OTP with anyone. PhonePe employees never ask for personal details.
  • Avoid sharing details regarding your social media information including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram handles.
  • Refrain yourself from falling from seemingly attractive offers from unknown merchants selling their wares or products.
  • Never fill any form seeking your bank details.
  • Abstain from downloading third-party apps such as Screen Share, Anydesk, Teamviewer to send/receive payments.
  • Not get in touch with helpline numbers shared on search engines and social media platforms. Instead, check the official website for helpline details.
  • Never respond to texts or emails from unknown addresses to click on unknown links.

The only official ways to reach PhonePe customer support is to click on the link or call our officials at 0806–8727–374 or 0226–8727–374 for 24*7 customer care support.

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Contact us only on our official accounts across various social media platforms.

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