Scamsters operating a 'your mobile selected for prize' con invoked the name of movie megastar and TV presenter Amitabh Bachchan to dupe a retired municipal employee in Bihar of his lifetime's savings.
Balmukund Mishra, 72, a retired employee of the Mokama municipality and resident Bhadaur village, about 100km east of Patna, has ended up a pauper after transferring Rs. 1.45 lakh in several instalments to the rip off artistes.
Lured by a Rs. 25 lakh prize offer on his mobile number, which, the cheats claimed, had been selected by no less a public persona than 'Big B' himself, Mishra ended up paying the amount as 'processing fees' for the 'bait' amount.
A week after the first call came on March 18, Mishra realised he had been swindled. But the Mokama police didn't register his case. Relief came only when he went to the Patna SSP's 'janata darbar' on Thursday.
"I have asked the Mokama police to register a case and Patna rural SP Hari Parasath S, to inquire into Mishra's complaint", SSP, Manu Maharaj, told HT on Friday.
Mishra's travails began on March 18 when he received a call from a mobile number found later to be registered in Pakistan.
"Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan has selected your number as one of 300 lucky numbers for a Rs. 25 lakh prize", said the voice on the other side of the line.
Mishra said he wanted to talk to Bachchan. Instead, he was made to talk to 'Mittal Mehra', posing as secretary of the superstar. "Mr Bachchan is busy in a meeting. You are lucky to be selected by him," said 'Mehra'.
Mishra was also made to talk to one 'Vikram Singh', posing as a GM of his mobile service provider, who 'congratulated' him for winning the 'bonanza'.
"Had Bachchan's name not been used, I wouldn't have succumbed to the scam", the victim said.
Mishra first deposited Rs. 15,000 as 'registration fee' for the award. Soon, another call came, asking him to pay Rs. 45,000 as 'security deposit'. Though suspicious, he paid.
Then, Mishra received a call from a 'Rehan Patel', claiming to be income tax commissioner. "Where did you get Rs. 60,000 from? Your house will be raided," the man warned him.
'Patel' asked a panicky Mishra to deposit another Rs. 50,000 "to avoid a raid". Mishra did so in two installments but it was still not over.
One Vijay Kumar, claiming to be bank branch manager in New Delhi, called up to 'verify' his account number. "We are depositing the prize money in your bank branch at Mokama. But you have to deposit Rs. 35,000 as confirmation fee", the man said. Mishra again paid up.
All the money was transferred from Mishra's bank account in Mokama to six different bank accounts in Odisha. The accounts were in the names of Anil Kumar Mohanty, B Kant Mallik, Nari Mallik, Subhash Boi, Pratap Rudra Bismal and Niranjan Nanda.
Later, when the prize money did not come, Mishra approached Munger MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh for help to get a case registered for fraud.
The MP gave Mishra a letter addressed to the Patna rural SP. The officer sent Mishra to Mokama police station for registering the case, but the police there refused.
Finally, a distraught Mishra moved the first 'janata durbar' of the newly appointed Patna SSP for help.