A woman who responded to an SMS message was relieved of Rs.57 lakh by a gang that operated from India and abroad.

The 52-year-old graduate of Mylapore, who was promised a huge prize money as part of the ‘World Cup Promotion Draw,' deposited the money in different bank accounts over a period of one month commencing from the third week of May. After realising the fraud, she lodged a complaint with the Chennai police.

According to police sources, the woman received an SMS in May second week, stating that she had won a cash prize worth a few crores of Indian currency. She responded to the email account that was mentioned in the SMS.

Days later, the complainant received an email in which the accused persons said the money would be delivered in India after obtaining necessary clearance from different agencies, including the United Nations and Reserve Bank of India.

In the process, they communicated the movement of the person bringing the cash box and asked her to deposit her money in various bank accounts for obtaining clearance from the immigration and customs authorities. A majority of the accounts into which the woman deposited money, ranging between Rs. 87,000 to Rs. 7.5 lakh, were opened in ICICI Bank.

When there was no trace of the prize money even after depositing Rs.57 lakh, the victim lodged a complaint with Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran last week who directed the Central Crime Branch to form a special team and investigate the case.

“A major portion of the money was deposited in the accounts of Zulfikar Zariar, Javed Khan and Imran Zari. We have written to ICICI Bank to share the details of these account holders. The money was drawn from ATMs across the country, including New Delhi and Mumbai. Video footage recorded by cameras in ATM machines could provide a clue to the identity of the suspects,” an investigator told The Hindu.

“They made her believe that the money was on the way. One of the accounts from which emails were sent was ukembassyact@yahoo.com. When contacted, Yahoo has asked us to get in touch with law-enforcing agencies in the United States to get the user details,” he said. Police suspect that the accused might have used fictitious names and documents to open the bank accounts. “In many such cases, the accused operated from countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. Obtaining information from foreign countries is a cumbersome process. Some service providers often refuse to part with customer information. One of the calls made to the victim in this case was from United Kingdom.”

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