Mumbai woman loses Rs 7 lakh to friend who sent ‘gifts’
A 28-year-old Kurla-based woman lost Rs 7 lakh to an unidentified man claiming to be from the United States who befriended her on a social networking website. The man told the woman he had sent her expensive gifts from the US, for which she was asked to pay customs duties to be cleared by the customs department in New Delhi. The Vinobha Bhave Nagar police have booked unidentified people in connection with the fraud.
The woman works in a private firm and lives in Kurla (West). According to police officials, she came in contact with one Mark Philippe in February. Philippe told her he is a US national and the two started chatting on a photo-sharing application.
“On March 16, Philippe sent her a message saying he had bought some expensive gifts for the woman and had sent them to India. On March 19, the woman received a call from a person claiming to be from the customs office. The person told her that they have seized gifts sent to her for not paying customs duties,” said a police officer.
The officer asked the woman to pay Rs 45,500 fees to clear the gifts. At different points of time over the next couple of weeks, the woman made payments for various other kinds of fees, after getting calls from different ‘officials’.
In total, she paid Rs 7.05 lakh, the officer said. Finally, when another ‘official’ asked her to pay some more money, the woman realised she was being duped. After Philippe, too, stopped all communication with her, she filed a complaint last week. “We have registered a complaint against a few people named by the woman. We have written to the authorities concerned to obtain digital footprints of the accused person,” said Anand Mulay, inspector in-charge of VB Nagar police station.
Cyber expert Ritesh Bhatia said such cases are generally the handiwork of rackets operated by foreign nationals in Indian cities.
“They target single, emotionally distressed women who are more vulnerable than others and befriend them on social networking sites,” he said.