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Con-Men On The Prowl

Con-Men On The Prowl

A few days ago an acquaintance of mine was almost swindled by a Facebook-pal who sent him some costly ‘gifts’ from UK. The only catch was that he had to pay the local handling charges to the courier agency which proffered the necessary local bank details for him to credit the amount before the parcel could be delivered. No sooner he heard about the ridiculously exorbitant ‘charges’, my friend decided to ‘forgo’ the gifts from London.

Gucci shoes, Versace suits, a diamond-studded Rado watch, an Apple lap-top and an iPhone 6 along with some expensive gold jewellery coming from a ‘buddy’ of not more than a fortnight got my friend all worked up about the ‘bounty’, never for a moment suspecting that something could be amiss here.

The phone-call from the agency in New Delhi informing him about the arrival of parcel and the ‘formalities’ that he would have to complete before it was delivered to him made him cynical about the whole deal. These doubts finally saved the day for him.

Such shams have been an everyday occurrence in the country. Crime cells across the country are apparently overburdened with similar cases which almost always remain unsolved with investigations into the matter reaching a dead-end, not because of the inefficiency of the police, but because the law enforcers are dealing with people masked in anonymity. 

Nonetheless, when it comes to making a fast buck, fraudsters over the years need to be appreciated for their ingenious ways at fooling people and ‘cashing’ in on their stupidity.

Fly-by-night operators fleecing their gullible clients with false promises of small investments and large gains, private financial institutions disappearing with huge deposits from their members; the list has been long, and the stories of wretchedness heart-rending.

Any money-making scheme can be sure of attracting investors. Promising high interest rates on their FDs, non-banking financial institutions rake in substantial deposits through their ‘popular’ plans. The problems start at the time of maturity of these deposits when such NBFCs unable to pay off their depositors leave the investors in a lurch, and at times disappear without any trace.

Incidents of suicides in the aftermath of such scams are not rare either. Coaxing some individuals to invest their entire life’s earnings in such ‘appealing’ schemes, these companies are responsible for the drastic steps taken by the destitute individuals. 

Kerala is famous for scores of defunct ‘chit-fund’ companies that still give investors a harrowing time. Most of them have lost their money to the scam-tainted and unreliable companies earning them the much deserving name – ‘Cheat Funds’. But, even today there is no dearth of members in small villages and towns who are ready to join such saving schemes promoted by ‘chitsters’.

Realizing that any financial product can go bust, it is indeed a gamble to play the speculation game, more so when the investment entails more risk and less returns.  Yet, people refuse to learn from their past mistakes and continue to fall prey to the wiles of tricksters who are always on the prowl to lure potential victims with their innovative schemes.

The era of plastic-money has been the most lucrative so far for con-artistes with Credit and ATM-card frauds leading the way.

Card fraud basically involves theft of identity or information on the cards. This data is then used to make withdrawals or conduct online or offline transactions. Keeping abreast with the latest cyber technology, techniques used by cheats to steal card information could stump the best of IT professionals.

The more we go digital, the problems are only being compounded. Various apps facilitating online shopping and bill payments on smartphones and computers have made life that much easier for the masses. But suggestions that this ease is equally matched by the felicity with which identity theft can be carried out which is subsequently used for unauthorized transactions should make one all the more cautious.

In spite of timely warnings from authorities, there are many who have quite innocently parted with their card details on telephonic queries which supposedly ‘emanate’ from the Reserve Bank or the Income Tax Department, only to have their deposits wiped clean even before they know they have been hit.

Even today, incidents of people acceding to requests for a ‘nominal’ processing fee to be credited in bank accounts forwarded by a ‘mysterious’ caller to get ‘cash bonanzas’ which they have won by way of lotteries or windfalls have not been on the wane, although there are reports every other day of many getting duped by this modus operandi.

Even the job-market has been ‘infiltrated’ by these rogues who have used their internet expertise to dupe candidates by getting them to apply for non-existent jobs. Linking certain fake Paytm wallets and bank account numbers, they then ask the aspiring job-seekers to transfer money as a registration fee. Once the caller is ‘registered’ after the amount is received, they start blocking the candidates’ numbers. In this manner, the tricksters manage to amass a huge booty.

The Hindi film,  Special 26 was a spoof on the fraudulent escapades of a group of con-men whose daring heists stunned the establishment. Robbing prominent businessmen and politicians posing as officers from the CBI and Income Tax department, the manner in which they evade arrest was the highlight of the film.

The cinematic creation may have been a source of inspiration for swindlers yet to earn their spurs in the trade. But yes, it does serve as a warning for the general public to be cautious about such elements who are audacious enough to carry out such strikes at will without the fear of being apprehended.

More than that, it serves to teach us that with a little bit of common sense one can easily gather one’s wits about oneself and escape the ignominy of being fooled into parting with one’s valuables. 

Nevertheless, playing on that one quality in human beings which has allowed greed to overtake other principles, bilkers have exploited the intense and selfish desire for money that corrupts mankind to no end.

For that matter, ‘easy money’ has always found as much favour with the victims as the charlatans who however have been in a better position to defraud the former considering the ‘expectancy’ quotient that compels the human race to personify foolhardiness when faced with the prospects of ‘gaining’ something that they could never dream of having in the normal course. 

Well, it is as simple as that – or is it!

(Published on 23th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 43)