Fake websites offering petrol pump licences under scanner
New Delhi: Websites offering fake petrol pump licenses from state and private oil companies have proliferated on the internet, using google search advertising and online transfers to lure and dupe gullible people desperate to own filling stations.
Late last year, three state-run oil companies – Indian Oil, HPCL and BPCLNSE 0.30 % – together launched a website, petrolpumpdealerchayan.in , as a single window interface for people interested in 78,000 petrol pumps licenses they had offered. While the licensing process is underway, some people have put up fake websites that closely imitates the content, design and the domain name of the original, and promise new pump licenses.
Some of the fraudulent sites currently active are: petrolpumpdealarchayan.com , petrolpumpsdealerchayan.co.in, petrolpumpdealershipchayan.org.in, petrolpumpdealerchayangov.in, petroleumdealerchayan.org, petrolpumpsdealershipchayan.in
These sites offer new pump licenses for Indian Oil, HPCL, BPCL, Reliance Industries and Nayara Energy (formerly Essar Oil). Online applications on these sites are processed within days and demand raised for initial fee ranging from Rs 10,000- Rs 25,000, which is to be transferred to a bank account allegedly owned by an oil company. This is followed by more document exchange and additional demand for money, until the applicant discovers the fraud.
These sites have used google search advertisement effectively to dominate the first page of search results for keywords like ‘petrol pump dealership’, driving the less-discerning applicants straight to their sites.
Indian Oil, BPCL and Nayara told ET that they have been conducting public awareness campaigns to prevent such frauds. “We have taken up strongly with the domain registrars of nearly 25 such fraudulent websites to block / take down these websites,” an IOC spokesperson said. BPCL and Nayara said their executives have been coordinating with authorities to remove such fraudulent sites. Reliance and HPCL didn’t respond to ET’s request for comment. No company confirmed if they had also approached Google to block such fraudulent advertisements.
One recent victim of this fraud was Yogendra Kumar Gautam, a 45-year-old farmer from the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, who had sought an Indian Oil pump via petrolpumpsdealershipchayan.in last month. Someone representing the website first called to confirm his identity, then sought more documents via whatsapp. An email shortly followed, demanding an initial registration fee of Rs 10,000, which was transferred via NEFT to an account that surprisingly showed Indian Oil Corporation as the account holder, making the transaction look genuine.
Gautam then received a draft agreement and another demand for Rs 50,000, which triggered suspicion sending him to a local petrol pump dealer for more enquiry. He was told genuine offers rarely made such demands. Gautam got his son to reach out to Indian Oil’s office resulting in the detection of fraud.
After Gautam demanded the website return his money, he was assured that the deal was all genuine and money would be returned if he so desired. He was also told if he had to lodge a police complaint, it will have to be against the company (Indian Oil Corp) to whom the money was transferred. Gautam is now unable to contact the people managing the website.
The Economic Times 29-11-19