Kerala Catholic priest contacted by ‘TRAI investigator’ loses Rs 5L

This is the sixth case being reported in Kochi, in which scammers duped people by posing as CBI, ED or police officials, in one month.
Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes.Express Illustrations

KOCHI : A Catholic priest in the city ended up losing Rs 5 lakh to a cyber fraudster who claimed to be an “investigation official” of the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).

This is the sixth case being reported in Kochi, in which scammers duped people by posing as CBI, ED or police officials, in one month.

As per the case registered at the Palarivattom police station, the priest, who is working with a publication of the Church in Padivattom, received a call from an unknown number last month.

“The caller claimed he was a probe officer with the TRAI. He said a probe into a case registered at the Ghatkopar police station in Mumbai revealed that a SIM card taken using the ID card of the priest was used to send abusive messages. The caller said the CBI is probing the case at present and as part of the investigation, the priest’s bank account will be frozen soon,” said a police officer.

The caller asked the victim to “verify his bank account” by transferring money from it to the one given by the former, said the official. “The unsuspecting victim transferred a total of Rs 5 lakh in two transactions to an account in Surat. Soon after the second transaction, the caller went incommunicado. The money was also not returned. Following this, the priest lodged a complaint with the police,” said an officer.

Last month, an Ernakulam native lost Rs 1.2 crore to fraudsters who posed as CBI officials. A retired government employee lost Rs 29.91 lakh after he was threatened by a caller saying he had been arraigned in a case related to Jet Airways being probed by the Mumbai police. A Kannur native staying in Kochi lost Rs 19.9 lakh, while a Ravipuram native lost Rs 4.04 lakh to similar frauds this past month. In some cases, fraudsters posed as police officers and extorted money from people claiming that drugs were recovered from a parcel in their name.

Amid the rise in such scams, the Kerala Police recently sounded an alert, urging people to be vigilant of such fraudsters.

“Law enforcement agencies can freeze one’s properties and bank accounts as part of an investigation. The account and property holders are not required to verify their accounts during such procedures. No agency will ask an accused to transfer money to their bank account as part of an investigation,” said an officer with the Kerala Police’s Cyberdome.

Any person receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a law enforcement agency and asking to transfer money, should immediately alert the police, said the officer.

“If possible, avoid unknown numbers. If any bogus calls are received, it can be reported to the police by calling 1930 (helpline). If money was sent, the police should be alerted immediately to help retrieve the sum,” said an officer.

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