In the 1980s, thousands of consumers around the country were taken for a ride by fraudsters who would promise a free gift such as a mixer/grinder or a ‘two-in-one’ if consumers solved a simple puzzle.
Everyone who responded would be informed that they had won a prize and would be required to send the amount required to cover packaging, mailing and insurance costs. Consumers would trustingly send the money but never get the promised prize.
Such frauds have gone trans-national today. You get an e-mail informing you that you have won a huge prize running to millions of dollars from a telecom company. All you need to do is send some personal information and money to get that amount.
Then there are loan offers that urge you to send some initial processing fee; text messaging on your cell phone, informing you of a huge windfall in a lottery; letters about some inheritance and the need for you to send the lawyers’ fee to get it. There are also international job offers, urging you to send a certain amount for completion of the formalities.
Such frauds will only increase in the years to come and Indian consumers will be exposed to not just home grown racketeers, but also international ones.
In many countries in North America and Europe, senior citizens are the most vulnerable targets. In Canada, for example, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (earlier called phone-busters) operates a special Senior Busters Programme, with 60 senior adults as volunteers to help combat frauds against seniors. The Anti-Fraud Centre provides a toll-free number on which one can complain about frauds.
The International Mass Marketing Fraud Working Group says that mass marketing fraud has gradually transformed from a predominantly North-American crime problem into a pervasive global criminal threat.
The group consists of law enforcement, regulatory and consumer protection agencies from seven countries including Australia, Nigeria, Canada, UK and USA and seeks to protect consumers through international exchange of information on mass marketing frauds.
Its ‘threat assessment report’ estimates that losses from such mass marketing frauds run into tens of billions of dollars.
Ishpreet K Biji: I registered myself with a company promising to provide repairs and services for computers, plumbing, gas stove, etc. They said they would respond to calls within 48 hours. I gave them a cheque of Rs 1,200 on March 8, 2010. On April 1, I called them about a problem with my computer. But no one came till April 4. I called them again but the number was either not reachable or they did not take the call. They have not responded to my letter of May 12 either. Please help me.
Answer: This could be a case of fraud — someone collecting money in the guise of providing services. Find out if any of your neighbours have also paid the company. If you have their address, you can all jointly visit the company and demand your money back. If not, file a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police. They can trace the culprits through your cheque.
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