KERALA

Falling prey to fraudsters in cyberspace

G. Anand

Over 20 online ‘advance fee’ cases reported in the State last year



Overseas-based fraudsters trick their victims into transferring money to anonymous accounts

Promise of higher monetary gains lures the victims



Thiruvananthapuram: An increasing number of Internet users in Kerala are falling victim to online ‘advance fee’ frauds.

The mostly overseas based fraudsters trick their victims into electronically transferring money to anonymous accounts by holding forth the promise of higher monetary gains.

Recently, an anonymous fraudster tricked a trader in the city into advancing Rs.8.5 lakh (over a period of one month and in relatively small sums) as “processing charge” by convincing him that he had won an Internet lottery worth Rs.1.5 crore Euros (approximately Rs.82 crore).

Receives e-mail

The trader received an e-mail on November 3 purportedly from a Western Union Lottery unit stating that the lottery was awarded annually to randomly chosen e-mail account holders and he was the winner for 2007.

The company gave the winning prize number as X2B120 and asked the trader to keep the number secret for claiming his award.

The company gave its e-mail as >westernunionlotteryunit@yahoo.co.uk and telephone +447045700519.

On November 19, the trader received a second e-mail purportedly from Nicholas Ferguson, Chief Financial Officer, Barclay’s Bank, (+447045762209, >service@barbank_uk.net) asking him to transfer Rs.24, 486 to a private Indian bank account in the name of S. Kamminthing. The trader complied.

Days later the trader honoured a second e-mail seeking the transfer of Rs.1 lakh into the account of Rita Sharma in the same bank as “non residential tax code” charge for enabling the transfer of the lottery amount.

Courier charges

The trader was also made to deposit Rs.3,32,000 into the same account as “courier charges.”

The trader continued to receive several demands on e-mail seeking money as “advance fees” and “processing charges,” which he continued to honour.

He paid Rs.2.5 lakh into the account of one Balwant Turuwa.

In the hope of getting Rs.82 crore, the trader paid Rs.1.20 lakh as customs clearance charges into the account of Ashok Associates and later on November 26 deposited Rs.3.8 lakh into the account of Beena Enterprises as “anti-terrorist certificate” charge for enabling international transfer of the lottery amount.

On November 30, he deposited Rs.2 lakh into the account of Mchresh Crafts.

The trader received a final e-mail which said that one Gary Wealth will contact him when he arrives in Mumbai.

The trader approached the police when Gary Wealth failed to make contact.

The Police High Tech Crime Inquiry cell has found that the various accounts into which the trader transferred his money were recently generated in different locations in North India using fictitious identities.

The e-mails had originated from the U.K, Karnataka, Manipur and Kanpur. Circle Inspector E.S. Bijumon, who is investigating the case, said it was a new form of Nigerian 419 or “advance fees” fraud. He said over 20 such cases were reported in the State last year.

A Government college lecturer in the city had also recently fallen victim to a variation of the same confidence trickery.

Confidence trickery

He received an e-mail purportedly from a Chennai-based placement agency promising him a teaching job at Salisbury International School in Austria.

A “company official” interviewed him on telephone and later sent an e-mail saying that he had been selected. The lecturer was also promised free boarding and education for his son in Europe.

The lecturer transferred Rs.4.5 lakh as visa processing charge and air fare into a bank account specified by the placement agency.

He was even sent an e-ticket. The lecturer realised he had been tricked when he found on the eve of his journey that no air reservation had been made in his name.

The Kerala Police have sought the help of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra police to investigate the cases.