Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The use of Internet and the online way to cheat appears to be taking deeper roots with victims from many cities - big and small - across the nation falling prey to tricksters.

According to investigating officers, initial inquiries with the victims showed that the money lost may be running into a few crores of rupees.

A glance at the complaints with the Central Crime Branch police, a wing of the Chennai Police, gives an impression that computer literates such as software professionals are the most affected group.

Many of them have fallen prey to e-mails, which say that they have won a lottery worth several million Pounds or a BMW car. Such cases have come to our notice, says Commissioner of Police G. Nanchil Kumaran. Other police officers say such e-mails should be ignored.

The modus operandi of the trickster(s) is to tempt the victims with such announcement. For instance, the mail, after conveying its greetings, would ask for the choice of colour of the BMW car, the winner wished to have.

When a person returns the mail mentioning the colour and other details, the trickster will instantly woo the victim to deposit, say Rs. 1 lakh or Rs. 2 lakh or even more in some Indian bank account to facilitate them to pay the Customs duty and other taxes on arrival of the gift.

According to police estimates, several hundreds of people across the country have responded to such e-mails.

Within a period of just six months, it has come to light that the tricksters - mostly Nigerians have allegedly received and withdrawn anywhere around Rs. 2 crore deposited by several such victims.

The victims belonged to Mumbai, New Delhi, Gujarat, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Erode, Pudukottai, Vellore, the police say.

Another modus operandi chosen by the tricksters is to send mails seeking details about personal bank accounts. The mails will appear to have been sent directly from the banks, but it is actually not, Assistant Commissioner (Bank Frauds Wing) M. Paneerselvam says.

Recently, a senior citizen in R.A.Puram became a victim of what is known as the “Nigerian Scam.” Not knowing that a forged mail had landed in his e-mail inbox, he clicked on the specified area, which instantly facilitated in transfer of his bank particulars to the trickster. After finding Rs.7 lakh in the account, the trickster transferred Rs. 4 lakh to four different savings bank account in Hyderabad, and Rs. 3 lakh to a single account in New Delhi.

In connection with the case, a special team of the Chennai Police from the Bank Frauds’ Wing visited New Delhi recently.

According to the officers, the Delhi Police had detained three Nigerians and a youth belonging to Manipur. They seized a laptop and other incriminating documents from their apartment which included 5 lakh hacked e-mail IDs.

Police officers say that many Nigerians coming to India are engaging in such activities. Most of them arrive in the country on a tourist visa or to pursue higher education.

But, it is learnt that some of them targeted depressed youth and become friendly with them. The local youths in turn oblige them by opening bank accounts in their names and facilitated the latter to operate with ease.

The money taken out from one account is transferred through net banking to the account of the local youths. After giving them 10 per cent, they took away 90 per cent in U.S. dollars.