It was Friday afternoon and two men — one in his mid-30s and another in his early 20s — approached a family at a house in Tulasidas Nagar, a suburb along Alagarkoil Road.
One of the men tells they had come to promote a new chemical powder that makes brass articles shine. The younger man asks the women — a mother, her two daughters and her mother-in-law – to hand over a brass article to him so that he can demonstrate how the chemical is used.
After a few minutes of interaction with the women, the duo leaves in a huff. Subsequently, the women are shocked to see that seven sovereigns of gold, including a chain, rings and ear studs, which they had given to the strangers for polishing, were missing from the cooker in which the tricksters had pretended to have put in. The women alert the district police. But the duo had disappeared.
Few hours later, the city police control room receives a similar complaint of two women having lost over 17 sovereigns of gold. Police enquiry reveals a similar modus operandi. The description given by the women about the cheats in Lakshmipuram matched with that of the tricksters who had duped the family in Tulasidas Nagar.
This is not the first time that gullible women have been cheated of their gold by two men of similar descriptions — one man is said to be tall, fair and sporting a neatly tucked-in white shirt, while the other man who is relatively shorter, is of a dark complexion and wears a cap. The first person speaks very little, but in Hindi. The latter is conversant in Tamil.
At least eight such incidents have been reported in the district in the last two months. A woman police constable too was not spared by the fraudsters.
Is that so easy for men to dupe women? How do the women willingly hand over jewels to total strangers?
The answers to these questions evoke identical responses from the female victims of both the incidents.
They complain that they were mesmerised by the duo. They claim that they were made to blindly follow their instruction after they were made to feel the coolness of a chemical. Then on, the women say they that they just followed their instruction.
The police say the men targeted houses where no male members were present. They slowly gain confidence of the women through their glib talk. First, they demonstrate the utility of their chemical on brass item.
Then they test it on silver item. By then, the women are convinced that the men can make their gold jewellery also glitter.
“First I gave a brass utensil from my puja room. Then my daughter gave her silver anklet. Even as I wanted to stop interacting with them and was wanting to ask them to leave after buying a packet of the chemical, my daughter rushed to hand over the gold ornaments,” Vijayakumari, says.
Her third daughter, who had come for delivery from Mumbai, was convinced as the other person interacted with her in Hindi. They win their confidence by putting a gold ring of one of the fraudsters in the cooker along with the victim’s jewels. Having gained the confidence of the women, the duo had asked the women in all the incidents to put the gold in a solution – of water and the chemical – in a cooker and heat it.
“Even as we were keen on noticing what they were up to, they kept giving us some instruction or other that diverted our attention from the jewels,” M. Shanti of Lakshmipuram says.
While her neighbour -- another victim, M. Sathyabama – was asked to bring turmeric powder, Shanti’s college-going daughter was asked to fetch drinking water.
“When I tried to put my hands into the cooker to ensure that the jewels were intact inside the solution, one of them warned me that my hand may get burnt because of the chemical,” Shanti says. At the Tulasidas Nagar house, one of them entered the kitchen in the guise of setting the gas stove flames from low to high.
The answer to the question on when did the men take the gold from the cooker is almost the same: We don’t know.
The police say that in most of the incidents, the duo had escaped in a two-wheeler parked at a distance from the victims’ house.
Superintendent of Police, V. Balakrishnan, said that the district police had created awareness on this modus operandi of cheating by distributing pamphlets. “We still find women getting duped,” he said. At Tulasidas Nagar, posters warning the people about the tricksters have been pasted.
The district police have now resorted to tom-toming in the villages to highlight the issue.
A city police officer said that this type of crime has resurfaced after almost a year. “It is not that all women are gullible and allow themselves to be cheated. The suspects would have tried their luck in many houses, but struck gold only in few. Women should not just stop with driving away such strangers. They should immediately alert the police about their movements,” the officer said.
However, the best way for women to avoid such bitter incident is to avoid strangers in to-to, especially, when male members are away, he opined.