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Delhi youth nabbed after scamming Amazon 166 times for Rs52 lakh

11 October 2017

A 21-year-old Delhi resident has been arrested for a scam in which he ordered expensive mobile phones from Amazon some 166 times and got refunds totalling Rs52 lakh after claiming he had received an empty box, the police said.

The police said Shivam Chopra, 21, had pulled the scam between April and May this year before Amazon realized that they were being conned and complained to the police.

Shivam Chopra had done a course in hotel management from an institute in north Delhi but could never hold down a job. In March this year, he came up with this idea and ordered two phones as a test case. He asked for refunds, and got them almost immediately.

For the next two months, he made a business of ordering Apple, Samsung and OnePlus mobile phones, which he would sell on another online marketplace OLX or at Gaffar Market, a west Delhi market for mobiles and other imported goods that was counted by the US Trade Representative as one of the world's "notorious markets" in global piracy in 2014.

This comes close on the heels of a similar case in the US where a couple duped Amazon of more than $1.2 million. Erin Joseph Finan and Leah Jeanette Finan pleaded guilty in federal court in Indianapolis earlier this month to charges of mail fraud and money laundering in connection with the racket, where they would buy expensive electronics items and report them missing or damaged (See: 'Lost, damaged': couple uses classic ruse to scam Amazon out of $1.2 mn).

For online retailers like Amazon, it's often cheaper to replace items when claims are filed than to investigate, but as the US prosecuting attorney pointed out, ''Consumer fraud is absorbed by all of us through higher retail prices."

Deputy Commissioner of Police Milind Dumbere said that Chopra exploited the company's customer satisfaction policy. Amazon would give him the refund in the form of a gift voucher.

Sachin Jain, 38, a small telecom store owner near his house who had supplied more than a 141 pre-activated SIM cards to Shivam Chopra to let him place the orders in different names, has also been arrested. Jain would charge Rs150 for each SIM card.

A resident of Tri Nagar in north-west Delhi, Shivam Chopra used these phone numbers to place orders and would give an incorrect address in the locality.

When Amazon's delivery associate could not locate the house, he would call on the registered phone number of the account that he was using, and would be guided somewhere close to his current address in the locality, and take the delivery. Later, he would call up to complain that the box was empty and get a refund.

"This was repeated for all 166 orders that were placed by the perpetrator," senior police officer DCP Dumbere said.

Nineteen mobile phones, 12 lakhs in cash and 40 bank passbooks and cheques have been seized from the Chopra's home.

Last year, the Hyderabad police had arrested two persons who would carefully open the seal of the packet while the delivery person was waiting for payment, replace the item with sand and complain to online retailers such as Amazon and Flipkart.

There have been other cases where customers have allegedly replaced the items ordered with similar products of poor quality.

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