Facebook friend ‘sends gifts’, dupes Mumbai man of Rs 21 lakh
Sushant Gavare (name changed), who owns coaching institutes, paid the money as processing fees for getting a gift parcel of gold watches, gold chains, a high-end laptop, an expensive smartphone and three cheques totalling £15,000 (over Rs 15 lakh), and the promise of transfer of £50,000 (over Rs 51 lakh) to his bank account. To gain Gavare’s trust, the fraudsters couriered him an ATM card with PIN, using which he was able to withdraw Rs 10,000.
By the time Gavare realized that he had fallen victim to a new strategy of long-time ‘Nigerian’ fraudsters, it was too late. He has been forced to mortgage his car and put his farmhouse on sale to clear the loans he took to receive ‘gifts’ from his Facebook friend.
Gavare approached the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) cyber police station on September 9 after his friend, ‘Jennifer Alex’, did not land at the airport on August 24-25. She had told him on chat that she was coming to Mumbai to meet him and his family for helping her overcome depression that she had been suffering from. Gavare had introduced her to his wife on chat.
“The fraudsters convinced me for two months about the existence of ‘Jennifer Alex’ and I was unable to see through their game despite being a businessman. I just got trapped. I paid ‘Jennifer’ money for the gifts after discussions with my wife. I had repeatedly asked ‘her’ on chat not to send any gift parcels. But being a sensitive person, I felt bad on receiving a call from one James, who claimed to be a parcel delivery boy and that he had come down from the UK to deliver the gifts,” Gavare told TOI.
Gavare accepted a friendship request from ‘Jennifer’ on February 1. “But for two months, I had resisted accepting it. ‘She’ used to flirt with me on chat and repeatedly tried to cosy up. ‘She’ also sent revealing photographs of herself. When I told ‘her’ I am married and have a family, she said she merely wanted to be a good friend. I agreed after informing my wife. During our chats, ‘she’ used to discuss her family problems and said she was under trauma,” Gavare said. “I counselled her and after a few days she acknowledged me for helping her overcome depression and said she was sending a gift parcel. The next day I received a receipt from a courier company.”
The first parcel was sent in the first week of July and Gavare was asked to pay customs duty and airport taxes. He shelled out about Rs 3 lakh on four occasions to get the parcels from the airport. “Finally, I received a call from a person identifying himself as ‘Mark’, representing the RBI. First he demanded Rs 1.65 lakh as processing fee for transferring foreign funds. Later he asked for about Rs 6 lakh to activate my new account, and about Rs 5 lakh for getting my net banking password and PIN on the RBI site. He also sent me an RBI link of my login page. When I failed to access it, he demanded another Rs 5 lakh,” Gavare said. “I got an RBI ATM card on August 12, which I used to make a withdrawal.”
It must be noted that the RBI does not issue ATM cards, and the one Gavare got was a forgery, but with a genuine magnetic strip that in all probability was removed from an ATM card issued by some other bank. “After this, ‘Mark’ demanded more money and said I will receive my promised money on August 24 when ‘Jennifer’ will land in Mumbai.” Gavare realized he had been duped when ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Mark’ stopped responding to his requests to get his money back. “‘Jennifer’ gained my trust by sending me photographs of herself taken in her office, her flat and even on flights,” he said.
Additional commissioner of police (crime) KMM Prasanna said a cyber police team comprising senior inspector Sudhir Mahadik, inspector Kalphana Gadekar and assistant inspector Rohan Deshmukh has been formed to track down the accused. The team is collecting the IP addresses that the fraudsters used to communicate with Gavare.