Siddharth Shetty

Unveiling a Close Encounter with Online Scammers: A Cautionary Tale

Today, I want to tell you about a new type of scam that I and my family got to experience firsthand.

Modus Operandi: The scammers launched a website called “” that sells sarees. A close relative of mine, let’s call her Sri. I may or may not have chosen this name so that she doesn’t throw her chappal at me when she reads this article. Sri is a pretty tech-savvy lady in her 50s, stumbled upon this site. Instead of her usual orders from Amazon and Myntra, she tried it out because the prices weren’t clearly absurd.

The sarees are priced at INR 799. Sri, a saree expert, estimated from the images that these sarees usually do sell for around INR 2000. A 60% discount though rare, isn’t unheard of.

So, next thing you know, she’s ordered a saree. Cash on delivery since it is a new site. A few days go by, not too many updates, but sure enough, a parcel arrives.

Before this, my sister, who was talking to Sri one day, found out Sri ordered from the said site Ustana. She looks up online reviews about it being a scam, etc., and warns Sri. Sri doesn’t find anything on the site that lets you cancel the order. She just thought she’ll send back the order when it arrives for delivery. But, as luck would have it, the security guard received the parcel since Sri’s cell was busy. He collected the package by paying the COD amount on her behalf.

Sri got the package, opened it, and found a saree. But it was of very low quality.

The colors were completely different from what she had ordered: orange and beige instead of turquoise and green. (The site might have been trying to send some subliminal political messaging there.)

She called me up, but I was busy at work. I told her to look for a call number on the site.

There is one; she calls the company. Sri is greeted by a polite individual with a Haryanvi/NCR region accent. He completely accepts the mistake for the goof-up and says they’ll immediately refund the money.

He asks her to download an app from the play store. Some screen-sharing and data-sharing app that Sri is not aware of now. Asks for the code on the screen and gets access to her screen.

Now, the scamster assures her that they won’t be needing any OTP, etc., and everything is secure. This argument would be more convincing if you didn’t share everything on screen, including incoming messages.

Anyway, next he tells her, for the refund, all you have to do is take a picture of your debit card. You don’t have to send it to us. The system will refund it to the account related to the debit card.

Sri had a beat-up 7/8-year-old debit card, where the numbers are barely visible. She opens up the camera app to “take a picture” and “not share it with anybody”. But, due to the beat-up nature of the debit card, none of the numbers were clear enough. So the person on the other side says the details aren’t clear and to try again.

Upon further inquiry, he finds that Sri also has a credit card. He asks her to try that. She didn’t have it on hand, so many hours later she returns home and calls back.

This time with the credit card. The scammers can see the credit card. They ask her to stay on call while they “process” the refund.

A debit of INR 75,000 is made on the credit card. It gets blocked. The scammers realize it might be a limit issue. They try again, this time with INR 7,500 instead. Blocked again. By this time, Sri notices the debit messages, abuses, and disconnects the call. But they had the number.

The card was blocked due to inactivity or non-payment of renewal charges, which is why the transactions didn’t go through. Otherwise, in a matter of seconds, the INR 800 saree would’ve cost her over INR 80,000.

Imagine if you or a loved one were in Sri’s shoes. She was lucky in two ways: the debit card numbers were unclear, and her credit card was blocked. If either of those things hadn’t happened, the scammers could have drained her savings account or maxed out her credit card.

I shared this blog with my friends and family, and I hope you will too. Let’s fight crime with awareness. But, if you do get caught in such a scam, I’ve listed some solutions and tips below.


Other than reading articles like these and keeping yourself aware about what’s going on and what app you’re downloading, what site you are visiting, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Read reviews of sites if they are new or unheard of. Read a lot because there will be paid reviews.

  • If the deal is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

  • Never download any app if you don’t know what it does.

  • Block your credit/debit card immediately via the bank app/website or by calling their helpline as soon as you find out. And inform them of the fraudulent transactions so they can stop settlements.

  • CC is a bit safer in this scenario since the liability is not yours. With a DC, the money is deducted from your account and you might want to get a reversal done with your bank.

P.S., the site is now taken down. The site was built using Shopify. The scammers probably run it during the 1-month trial and then delete everything without a trace. That is quite insignificant cost of doing “business.”

For anyone wondering, the transactions they were trying to do were below:

“Dear SBI Cardholder, Txn of Rs. 74,700.00 on Card ending with [redacted] at IB MONOTARO Pvt Ltd has been declined due to card block. Pls, call at 18601801290/39020202 for details.”

Based on the Google reviews, the company IB MONOTARO Pvt Ltd may or may not be a front, although that is not something I claim. It is up to the police to take action on this.


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