The Customs of Conmen
TOIBENGALURU: Rachana Shetty befriended Rahul Chinnappa earlier this year on Facebook. Their friendship grew first with polite replica louis vuitton admiration of posted photos, then comments, and then private meesages. Soon they exchanged phone numbers and the couple found themselves in deep heartfelt conversations. Shetty, a 37 year old wedding planner from replica louis vuitton bags from china Mangaluru, thought that she had found love at last. And Chinnappa, a UK based doctor, seemed to reciprocate. A couple of months into their long distance relationship, he sent Shetty a set of photographs of the gifts that he was sending: A Louis Vuitton handbag; a Tom Ford makeup kit; and an iPhone. Sometime after the gifts were dispatched, Shetty received a call. The person on the other end was an officer from the Customs department from Bengaluru airport. Her gifts had arrived, he said, but Customs duty on these items had not been paid, and as the recipient, it was up to her to pay the duty, he said. The duty, he said, amounted to Rs 27 lakh. Shetty paid up in many installments. When she went to the airport to pick up her gifts 1:1 replica handbags , the officials aaa replica designer handbags did not know what she was talking about. There were no gifts. There was no Rahul Chinnappa. It was all a scam Shetty’s case isn’t an isolated one. Last week, a retired banker in Gurugram was cheated of Rs 35 lakh, a result of another online friendship. The woman posed as a UK based jeweller, and she claimed that she was travelling from London to Delhi only to meet him. Later he received a call from the airport, from a woman who said that she was an immigration officer, saying that his friend was being detained for being in possession of UK Pound notes worth Rs 68 lakh. The panicked banker scraped together Rs 35 lakh some from his savings and the rest borrowed, and transferred the money to the specified account. As soon as that was done, the calls stopped. And his “friend” vanished. It’s hard to estimate the volume of money people lose to scams like this, because shame and embarrassment keeps people from contacting the police. Conservative estimates put the high quality replica handbags china figure at several crores annually and the number is rising, as more and more people get on social media and become accessible to scammers. Customs don’t call The old Nigerian prince scam (also called a 419 scam or an advance fee scam Fake Louis Vuitton Replica Bags , which involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up front payment, which the fraudster requires in order to obtain the large sum. If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears) has given way to the new Customs and Immigration scam. This involves someone purporting to be from the Customs or Immigration departments claiming that duty needs to be paid on a high value parcel addressed to the victim. So do the Indian Customs officials actually contact the general public? “Absolutely not,” snaps Harsh Vardhan Umre, Additional Commissioner of Customs at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru. “We have been receiving enquiries from people pertaining to these kinds of online frauds. It is absolutely unfortunate that well educated people fall prey to these cons and lose large sums of money,” he says. Umre says that the people should understand that Customs officials replica louis vuitton handbags usually don’t contact an individual and in case of payment of import duties there is a specific format which is absolutely transparent. “Customs officials never ask people to deposit money in bank accounts,” he says, emphatically. Social engineering attacks There’s usually some level of social engineering involved in targeting victims. The people most commonly targeted are older men dolabuy.su , or single women in their thirties and forties. Matrimonial portals are usually rich hunting grounds for the scammers. Divorcees, people over 35 years of age and physically challenged are primarily targeted by online fraudsters who fish for them through marriage portals as prospective grooms or brides, often posing as Indian origin doctors or engineers with a British passport. “Posing as a 45 year old divorcee, he sent me a request for match on Bharatmatrimony portal and we started talking. He told me he was a British doctor with Bengaluru roots and on a UN mission in Afghanistan. He claims he was fed up of life overseas and wanted to settle in India with an Indian woman,” says Vidya Rani, a 37 year old school teacher here. Rani fell for the 1:1 replica handbags fraud and believing that she would soon be married to a charming doctor moving to Bengaluru from the UK had no problems Designer Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags believing her fiance had sent her gifts as a token of love. “A few days after he claimed he had sent gifts, a woman Customs officer called fake designer bags me and threatened to take action against me as the expensive gift package the doctor sent attracted a heavy Customs duty. As the sender was in Kabul, the onus was on the receiver,” she said Rani transferred, in multiple instalments, nearly Rs 18 lakh to various bank accounts, as per the guidance of the ‘Customs Officer’ who shockingly cited the charges were towards a “Terrorism Clearance Certificate”, Indian Customs duty, gifting duty and several others. Inaccessible Customs According replica designer handbags to Jinendra Khanagavi, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cybercrime cell), the conmen are well aware that the general public find it harder to contact the airport Customs officials and using that knowledge they cheat innocents. “Nearly 30 percent of the complaints of online fraud including the matrimonial and Facebook friendship fraud involving big money transfers, the culprits have posed as Customs officials. It is unfortunate that educated people are the ones who fall for this despite so many awareness campaigns both online and offline,” says Khanagavi. “It replica louis vuitton bags from china is shocking that people don’t bother to crosscheck but transfer lakh of rupees to unknown bank accounts just because someone calls as a Customs official,” he says. Customs Calling Nearly 30% of the online fraud cases registered in Bengaluru are the ones where victims transferred large sums after they received a call from an alleged Customs officer. Conmen target victims through Facebook and matrimonial portals, posing as UK based doctors or engineers of Indian origin planning to settle in India by marrying someone back home. The fraudster talks to the target for months and then build trust by sending fake photos and videos in operation theatres and construction sites of an unidentified person. He would then tell the target that an expensive gift sent is cheap louis vuitton bags from china uk caught with the Customs and money should be transferred towards Customs duties. In reality, they are online fraudsters operating within India, who usually use the help of their associates to call victims, posing as Customs officials. The money sent is channelled to various bank accounts and e wallets and is often withdrawn before the victim realises that he or she has been conned. (Some names changed on request) Forget the Nigerian Prince scam. Now, confidence tricksters posing as Customs officials are defrauding people of crores of rupees using a combination of social media and social engineering skills.
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