Today: Jun 19, 2024

Beware! Scammers and Swindlers are Around

The stories narrated serve as cautionary tales, reminding us to be vigilant and discerning in our interactions, both in person and over the phone. Scammers and swindlers employ various tactics to gain our trust and exploit our goodwill. By staying informed and alert, we can protect ourselves from falling victim to their schemes
4 mins read

Let me share with you a story from around 40-50 years ago, when I first ventured out to explore Delhi. As I made my way through the bustling crowds of Chandni Chowk, I came across vendors enticing customers with their wares spread out on the footpaths. One particular stall caught my attention – they were selling shirt pieces, with a special offer of “buy one, get one free.” The seller was lavishly praising the quality of the fabric, claiming it wouldn’t shrink or fade. “In the market, you won’t find these two pieces for less than 40 rupees. But here, for my sale, I’m giving you both for just fifteen! Loot it, brother, loot it!” the owner exclaimed.

Before I could even contemplate the purchase, two or three young men standing near me swiftly took out fifteen rupees each from their pockets and handed them over to the vendor, as if they were grabbing a rare item at a little bargain. Inspired by their enthusiasm, I too bought two pieces for fifteen rupees.

Alas, within three or four months, both shirts had shrunk and their colors had faded. It was then that an acquaintance, well-versed in the cunning ways of Delhi, informed me that those initial enthusiastic customers were actually in cahoots/connivance with the vendor. Their purpose was to build trust and convince others to buy the subpar merchandise. He advised me to be more cautious in the future.

Modern-Day Scams

Another instance involves a common phenomenon these days. I received a phone- call one morning:

“Is this Mr. Raina online?”

“Yes, who is speaking?”

You didn’t recognize my voice? But,I recognized yours.”

“Buddy, frankly speaking, I can’t recall. I’m not able to catch your voice at all.”

“Sir, think a little more.”

“Tell me now. I don’t know who you are.”

“Sir, it’s me, Meena.”

“But which Meena? I know many Meenas.”

“I’m Madanlal Meena. Remember now? I’m calling from Udaipur.”

“Oh, Meena Ji! Director of All India Radio, Alwar? Buddy, did you get transferred to Udaipur, when?”

“Yes. I’ll tell you all about that later. First, do me a favor please, I’ll be very grateful.”

“Yes, yes. Tell me, what do you need?”

“Here in Udaipur, someone I knew had borrowed money from me long ago.”

“So then?”

“Now he has agreed to return it with great difficulty. But he will make the payment via PhonePe or GooglePay. I don’t have this facility. I used to but currently my SIM has expired.”

“So how can I help you, Meena Ji?”

“If you give your PhonePe number, this gentleman will transfer the money to your account, and later I’ll meet you and take the amount from you.”

“How much money will you transfer?”

“Around thirty thousand. You keep this money with you. I’ll come to Alwar later and collect it. At the moment, he is depositing five rupees in your account, and once it’s confirmed, he will transfer the rest.”

“Buddy, why don’t you just take the cash from him there itself?” I asked out of curiosity.

“He does not have that much cash on hand, it’s in the bank. On top of that, there’s the COVID problem. He is an elderly person so he is hesitant to move out. Don’t worry, you won’t face any trouble. Just give me your PhonePe number, please.”

I don’t know why, but I felt something was fishy. Am I the only one Meena Ji could find in this entire city? He could have approached any of his staff members, relatives, family-members, friends, etc. I disconnected the call. He called many a times, but I didn’t respond.

An idea struck me. I called another acquaintance of mine who is an official at the All India Radio center in Alwar. I told him the whole story. He said this was a scam. There was, indeed, a director named Madanlal fifteen years ago. But currently, someone else is in the director’s position. “Sir, I also keep getting such calls regularly. Be careful and don’t respond to them. The caller will gain your trust by depositing a small amount and later send a link asking you to click it to receive the remaining amount in your account. The moment you click the link, instead of receiving the money, the money in your own account will be syphoned out.”

Yet Another Amusing Tale from Abroad

I visit my son in Dubai (UAE) almost every year for around three months, and I carry many memorable experiences along with me when I am back to India. I am reminded of such a worth mentioning experience which happened quite a few years back. Around the festival of Eid, I came across a very amusing experience. I was going for some shopping in a mall when a car suddenly stopped by my side. One gentleman sat back in the driver’s seat while the other one got out of the car. Polite and polished, I first thought that they would ask me for directions, but that was not to be. Instead, both of them emphasized that they were from Italy and had run short of money and wanted to sell off some suit pieces, which they had carried all the way from Italy. The driver said: “Wonderful and high-quality Italian fabric!”

I smelt the rat. Just to get out of the situation, I skillfully offered them as little as Dh50 for a pack of five suit pieces, which was almost agonizing for them. The original offer was Dh500 from these crooks. They could very easily understand my ploy as I could theirs.

One of my friends who is a widely travelled gentleman told me later that this type of underhanded activity by crooks is to be seen almost everywhere in the world.

Conclusion

These stories, spanning decades and continents, highlight the persistent presence of impostors and scammers all around. Whether in the bustling markets of Delhi or the modern malls of Dubai, the tactics may vary, but the underlying deceit remains the same. It is a reminder to stay vigilant, question offers that seem too good to be true, and trust our instincts when something feels off. As the world becomes more interconnected, so do the schemes of these cheaters flourish immensely. Staying well-informed and cautious should be our best defense against these impostors around.

The stories narrated above serve as cautionary tales, reminding us to be vigilant and discerning in our interactions, both in person and over the phone. Scammers and swindlers employ various tactics to gain our trust and exploit our goodwill. By staying informed and alert, we can protect ourselves from falling victim to their schemes. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts, verify information, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice from those with more experience navigating such situations.

Writer is former Fellow, IIAS, Shimla. [email protected]