CHENNAI: Days after a WhatsApp message cautioning city residents about a ‘conwoman’ went viral, the city police began investigations to find out who circulated it to tarnish her reputation. A middle-aged woman’s photo that was part of the message is actually working as an accountant in an IT firm in Thane, Maharashtra.
A couple of Tamil dailies fell for it and carried the ‘news’ assuming it was authentic since their reporters received the forward from a few police officers.
While initially it appeared to be an innocuous message meant for the safety of home-alone woman, what made it serious was the photo of a middle-aged woman in saree wearing an identity tag. The message said she was on a robbery spree in and around Chennai posing as an employee of LPG companies.
“She will come as an LPG company staff for a safety check of the cylinder. She will ask permission to use the toilet to wash hands. If women were alone in the house, she will use chloroform to make them unconscious and loot away jewels from the house,” read the message that was circulated in both English and Tamil.
The same message was subsequently circulated as a voice recording in WhatsApp groups. A senior police officer said the voice was that of a sub-inspector serving here.
“The photo was posted by the woman in her Facebook account and someone known to her put it along with the WhatsApp message to tarnish her image in Thane. The Thane police have registered a case based on the complaint of her brother Sudhir Nair. Subsequently, someone forwarded the message to people in Chennai saying she was targeting houses here,” said a senior police officer.
The message reached a WhatsApp group of inspectors in Chennai and it is learnt that a few officers forwarded it, assuming it was true. In fact, the voice recorded version of the message named a police inspector serving in Thuraipakkam police station, saying he had forwarded it in “public interest.”
“The voice was found to be that of a sub-inspector. Some officers too thought it was authentic and forwarded it,” said a police officer.
On Sunday, the Chennai city police convened a meeting of its officers and warned them against forwarded messages in social media platforms without cross-verification.
“The message was circulated intentionally by a few persons. While the Thane police are investigating the case, we have also registered a complaint in the Cyber Cell and launched an investigation,” said the officer.