Over 50 people from Bengaluru and Hyderabad have lost money after contacting false numbers listed for Tonique on Google since 2020, when the COVID-19 lockdown began. On October 5, two young women in Bengaluru called Tonique — touted to be one of the largest liquor stores in Asia — after searching for the store’s number on Google.
According to the store management in Hyderabad, as many as eight people complained that they lost money to scamsters, following which the company approached the police and the Cyber Crime Department. In their complaint, Tonique said that “these imposters collect funds from our customers before delivering the order and never deliver the liquor”.
Usually, scamsters modify the coordinates of a company on Google and then use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) methods to make sure that these fraudulent numbers and websites are listed right at the top of search results. The numbers fraudulently listed for Tonique change every week or so, and so does the website. “The numbers change every two weeks. We have written to Google and approached the police.
Usually, scammers change a company’s coordinates on Google and then use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) methods to ensure that these fraudulent numbers and websites appear at the top of search results. The numbers fraudulently listed for Tonique change every week or so, and so does the website. “The numbers change every two weeks. We wrote to Google and approached the police. Just as one song is removed, another appears,” Das said.
Typically, scammers change a business’s coordinates on Google and then use search engine optimization (SEO) methods to ensure that these fraudulent numbers and websites rank at the top of search results. The numbers fraudulently listed for Tonique change every week or so, as does the website. “The numbers change every two weeks. We wrote to Google and contacted the police. As one number is jotted down, another pops up,” Das said.
“This was a big learning for us,” said Poorva J, the Bengaluru resident who along with her friend lost Rs 15,000 to the scam. Speaking to The News Minute, she said that everything about the number that she called seemed legitimate. “The person who picked up sounded very convincing. He said he was from Tonique, his WhatsApp display picture was the Tonique logo. When you read about such fraud, you think it can’t be so easy to get scammed. But it is really easy,” Poorva added.
Based on the company’s complaint to the Hyderabad Police Cyber Crime Cell, officials have registered a case under sections 469 (counterfeiting), 419 (fraud by impersonation) and 420 (fraud and dishonest obtaining of property) of the Indian Penal Code. and Section 66 D of the IT Act. In 2020, Hyderabad Police issued a tip after a man lost a whopping Rs 92,000 to scammers who promised to ship alcohol to his home during the lockdown. It should be noted that Karnataka had allowed home delivery of alcohol during the COVID-19 lockdown, while the Telangana government has been firmly opposed to online sales of liquor in the state.