Cashing in on the craze in the city for the Apple iPhone, fraudsters have conned several people, both online and otherwise, luring them with large discounts on the price of the expensive mobile phone. City police have received over 15 complaints from persons having been cheated of a total of over Rs. 20 lakh, and have now launched an extensive probe, sources with the Central Crime Branch said.
A few weeks ago, Manoj Kumar (23) came across an online advertisement of the iPhone, available at 20 percent less than the market price. Tempted, the MBA student contacted the number in the ad and a man on the receiving end told Kumar that he could avail of the deal if he placed a bulk order — not less than 10 iPhones — for the devices, which he would receive by courier.
“He placed an order for 10 iPhones and wired more than Rs. 2 lakh to an account given to him by the man, after the latter managed to convince the youngster that he was a direct dealer of the manufacturer. A week later he realised he had been cheated when the mobile number of the ‘dealer’ was constantly switched off,” said an officer.
Police have been receiving complaints about iPhone frauds from mid-2011 onwards. Last year, three dentists were conned in a similar fashion. In 2011, there were five such complaints.
This year, the number of cases has shot up, with more than 15 complaints received until mid-August. In some cases, conmen invited victims near the Chennai Harbour and fled with over Rs. 20,000 in cash after convincing them to wait while they returned from the Harbour after illegally buying phones that had been seized by the Customs department, sources added.
The conmen have also started begun baiting residents through SMS texts.
“Recently, I received an SMS for an iPhone at almost half the regular price. I called the number and a man told me I had to come near the Light House and hand over Rs. 20,000, after which he would go to the harbour and get the device,” said Ranjith, a student, who denied the offer.
On May 3, North Beach police arrested an aeronautical engineering graduate, after he cheated a college student of over Rs. 3 lakh.