Luring gullible public through SMS offering huge sums in dollars as prize money is the new modus operandi making rounds in many small towns and cities in a few southern districts by white collar offenders, say police.

Cyber crime police investigating the SMS have found that the offenders, mostly originating from Nigeria and UK, had global presence.

Though the police have not been able to proceed against the tricksters swiftly, all that they appeal to the public is “beware of strange SMSs from new numbers received in your mobile phones. Do not get carried away by any attractive offers.”

Police officers said that at least a dozen people informed them about the SMS received in the last 10 to 15 days. While some of the residents from Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Dindigul and Madurai enquired about their authenticity with the police, some others admitted to having sent money to the bank account as requested by the sender.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (central crime branch, bank frauds wing, Chennai Police) M. Paneerselvam told The Hindu that earlier the offenders used the e-mail route to lure the victims.

Now, they had chosen the SMS mode. Public should ignore such messages received in their mobile phones. The police were keeping track of such mobile phones closely, he warned. Sample some of these messages. “Your cell phone won 7, 00,000 pounds on the 24th of August 2009...”

“Your e-mail ID won 4,50,000 US dollars national lottery. Congrats. For confirmation, send in your bank account details.”

“You are the lucky winner of a BMW car… As a policy, the winner should remit customs duty for clearance at the port of destination. As an acceptance, deposit 450 US dollars in the bank account within 14 days.”

“A rich NRI in UK died leaving behind huge immovable properties with no heirs. We are legal claimants for the 300 million dollar properties. Your name and initial suits the deceased person. Pay 100 US dollars for more details.”

Investigators said that some of the e-mail contacts for claims originated from UK and some African countries.

The mobile phone numbers given along with the SMS to different receivers were being gathered and watched discreetly, police added.