A 48-year-old woman was duped of Rs3 lakh by an unidentified person who befriended her on Facebook posing as an official from the US Army posted in Afghanistan. The Powai police said the fraud was perpetrated by several people, one of whom was arrested from Delhi on Saturday.
The imposter told the woman he wanted to give her his medals and money, as he has no relatives to give these items to. The police have not ruled out Nigerian fraud.
According to the police, the woman — a housewife — received a Facebook friend request from a man calling himself ‘Micheal Coleman’. He told her he was currently serving his country in Afghanistan.
The two formed an emotional bond after Coleman told the woman his wife had passed away. He added that he was an orphan and had a troubled childhood, but managed to beat the odds by joining the army. The woman believed the stories he concocted.
Coleman told her he wanted her to have his personal belongings — medals, awards and money — after he died. He then put her in touch with his friend Austin Joel.
Under the pretext of sending her Coleman’s belongings, Joel told the woman he needed money to clear customs procedures. She paid him. Finally, she approached the Powai police station on June 27, after realising she had been duped.
The police registered an FIR and arrested Richard David Shemri, 30, a Manipur resident working in a BPO in Delhi. He was brought to Mumbai. The woman had deposited the money in his bank account, of which he withdrew Rs20,000. The police are trying to recover the rest of the money.
Dos and don’ts by cyber experts
Never accept friend requests on Facebook, if you don’t know those people. The site is commonly used by conmen posing as US or UK nationals
If any of your online friends — whom you have never met in person — are asking for money so they can send you gifts, do not listen to them. Report the issue to the local police or cyber police
Do not allow strangers to access your Facebook profile, which includes your personal information such as your birthday, the school you went to, your workplace and photos that can be misused
June 2016 - A woman from Chhattisgarh was duped by an imposter who befriended her on Facebook and posed as an England-based man named Frank Williams. He told her he came to meet her at the airport and was stopped by customs, which asked him to pay Rs25,000 for carrying excess luggage
July 2016 – A woman was duped of Rs1.30 crore by an imposter who posed as a man named Richard Anderson. He promised to give her Rs9 crore to start an old age home. She was asked to deposit the money to clear tax hurdles
September 2016 – A 64-year-old woman was duped of Rs94 lakh by an imposter who posed as Harley Benson, a London-based professional. The man promised to marry her. She deposited the money over four months, thinking she would get a gift worth 95,000 Euros, which had been confiscated by a customs official
“Several such cases have been registered with us across Mumbai. Women are befriended on Facebook by strangers who form an emotional bond of friendship or love with them, then get them to deposit money in a bank account. Their main modus operandi is to lure the women with gifts or belongings and then get them to deposit smaller amounts as custom clearance, tax or fees. After delivering the money, the women realise they have been duped when they do not get the gifts promised,” said an official from the cyber police in Mumbai.