Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Youth from UP falls prey to online lottery scam

The RBI had an unusual visitor last week. A youth from Sonari village in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, wanted the central bank to complete its formalities so that he could finally avail of the prize money of a lottery.

The youth, Prem Singh (name changed), was made to believe that unless the RBI gave the go-ahead, he would not be able to withdraw the Rs 2.2 crore that was supposedly credited to his bank account back in his village. The RBI realised that the youngster has fallen prey to the “Nigerian Scam”, which has left a number of gullible people poorer by crores over the past several years.

Singh, son of a retired subedar-major and an arts graduate, fell for it when he was informed in August this year through e-mails that he had won Rs 2.2 crore as prize money instituted by the “British Online Lottery”.

Singh’s father then helped him get loans of nearly Rs 10 lakh from banks, which were paid to the perpetrators of the scam to obtain various “clearances’’, a mandatory requirement before the prize money could be credited.

The scamsters—operating only online—and their agents promised to deliver the money once Singh got the required clearances. They provided some bank accounts in UP and Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, where Singh had to deposit the money required to get the clearances.

Singh was charged hefty amounts to obtain clearances from various agencies. A fake non-terrorist certificate (which the scamsters claimed was issued by Serious Organised Crime Agency, London), anti-drug clearance certificate, (“issued” by United Kingdom) and money laundering clearance certificate (“issued” by IMF-World Bank and Monetary Governing Board, Geneva) were issued.

Singh was given a fake RBI receipt dated September 16, stating it had received Rs 3.76 lakh towards payment for conversion, processing and transfer of the prize money. Singh was also provided with another fake deposit receipt issued by the RBI saying one “diplomat Williams Douglas” had deposited Rs 2.2 crore in Singh’s name.

The scamsters even charged him Rs 4.4 lakh as income-tax.

According to the police, the scamsters befriend youngsters and seek permission to operate their bank accounts for some transactions. “They are promised a fixed commission for allowing them to use the bank accounts,” said Sanjay Saxena, additional commissioner of police, economic offences wing (EOW).

Singh approached the EOW on the directives of the RBI. Saxena said Singh insisted that he was not duped as Douglas had given him a photocopy of his passport. “Douglas might be a fake name. There are times when even educated people fall prey to these scamsters and lose lakhs of rupees . However, these victims hesitate to approach the police as they fear people will laugh at them,” he added.

The central bank has been warning the public against falling prey to such schemes for some time.

NIGERIAN LETTER SCAM
The Nigerian Letter Scam is globally known as the “Four-One-Nine” (419) scam or K49; “419” refers to the Nigerian criminal statute for fraud. It started as a postal letter fraud and has been around since the ‘80s. The scam now includes phone contacts (including mobiles), fax messages and emails

Many Nigerian email scam perpetrators introduce themselves as bank chief auditors, chief security officers, remittance department officials, directors of finance, director of bank, contract award department employees etc

They claim to have discovered inactive or delinquent accounts that hold vast amounts ready to be claimed

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