KOCHI: Nearly three months ago, 25-year-old Abhinav Raj (name changed), a BTech graduate, received a message on Facebook from an account with the username Diana Manik seeking to be his friend. The woman who claimed to be a resident of UK informed Abhinav that she had lost her husband in an accident and needed mental support. Moved by her story, the unsuspecting youngster found time to chat with her. Within a few weeks, they started communicating on Skype through video calls.
The two became quick friends even as Abhinav attended to her calls without the knowledge of his parents. During the course of one of their conversations, Diana informed that she had sent a surprise gift, weighing 52 kg, to his address in Kerala. The woman also shared the details of the shipment.
However, things took a turn when Abhinav got a call from someone in Delhi claiming to be the customs officer. “The officer asked me to pay Rs 35,000 online for clearing the customs duty on the product. Even the shipping details he shared with me matched with the one shared by Diana. It is difficult for me to arrange such a huge amount within hours. I decided to ask for the help of my friend. But before sending the money he consulted his acquaintance who worked in the customs office. Only then did I realise that it was all a scam. I came to know that a big team was behind this,” said the youngster.
Though Abhinav was able to escape unscathed from the mafia, several youngsters have reportedly lost money in similar incidents. “In the last month itself, we received nearly five complaints. In most cases, these frauds are committed using customs as bait. Interestingly, a major chunk of the victims are active social media users.
Another important thing is women are involved in the online fraud as most of the calls are made by them,” said Ajith Kumar P C, Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Air Customs, Nedumbassery. According to him, the mafia has a wide global network. “If the perpetrator belongs to the US or UK, his co-partner may be working from India. People should be very careful,” he added.