BENGALURU: Next time when you see an advertisement online with the photo of a beautiful woman offering escort services, think before you click.
For the folly of clicking on the ad, you may end up losing a lot of money. Ever since the country started unlocking from the COVID-induced lockdown, several such escort sites have cropped up across the internet. They offer services of men and women escorts to customers from Bengaluru, Mysuru and other parts of the state.
Once a customer clicks the ad, he is asked to register himself at the escort club by calling a number and transferring some money. The website then sends the customer several photos of women and assures him that the woman he chooses will be sent to a safe location in his city.
In most cases, that will be the last communication the customer will likely have with the escort club and he will have to forget his money. That is if he is lucky. There are several websites that go a step further and start blackmailing and extorting money from their customers, threatening to go public with the communication.
Chasing this story, a correspondent from The New Indian Express contacted a number, 99*****301, posing as a client and a woman responded, listing the requirements and assuring him of providing the escort service at a service apartment, but only after a minimum amount is transferred to their account for membership.
After the money was transferred, the correspondent was asked to go to a location. When he reached there, he got a call saying he needed to remit another Rs 30,000 as a security deposit to avail of the service the first time. When he asked why this was not revealed earlier, a woman at the other end said that she would try to make an arrangement without a deposit.
When the correspondent insisted that the initial deposit should be returned, the website handlers started threatening him, saying they would share his voice records with his friends on social media platforms.
Sources said that though the first seven months of this year, from January till July, have seen a dip in offline crime cases, cybercrimes have shot up and 6,082 cases have been reported across the state.
A senior IPS officer, attached to the cybercrime cell, said that though most cybercrime cases are related to phishing, a significant number is also related to men being cheated by such escort websites. But majority of these cases go unreported because of social stigma, he added.
“Most of these fraudsters operate from remote villages in North Indian states, like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Our teams have visited these states to investigate, but we have not been successful,” he said.
Karnataka ADGP, Parashiva Murthy said that the police are creating awareness on online frauds and are also training the staff at the cyber cell to investigate the cases effectively. He said that they are keeping a track of such websites, but refused to reveal details.