Online cheating: Many entrapped in friend requests by ‘Indian women’

The Indian nationals are fluent in Hindi and English. They make phone calls and grab videos while the Bangladeshi nationals, who are members of the gang, collect the money through MFSs by issuing threats to the victims

This photo was sent to one of the victims

A physician in Dhaka received a friend request from a Facebook profile named Anjali Sharma. Anjali identified herself as an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from Rajasthan. The physician responded to the request of the “police official”.

The two started chatting over Facebook Messenger. At a stage of their chatting, the physician shared his mobile phone number with Anjali as she had asked for it. After a week, she made a video call to the physician over WhatsApp. It turned out to be an obscene video call when the physician received the call.

A video of that video call with the woman was grabbed skillfully. Later, Tk 500,000 was demanded from the physician by threatening him to send the video to his family members and relatives. He sent Tk 65,000 to a mobile financial service (MFS) account, the fraudsters sent, out of fear and shame in the first week of January.

Likewise, a deputy secretary level official in Dhaka in December last year responded to a friend request of Swapna Singh, who identified herself as a customs official at Chennai Airport in India. He was also trapped in the same way and then money was demanded from him.

As he did not send the money, photographs and video were shared with his superiors. As a result, he was transferred to Barishal from Dhaka. Crisis appears in his conjugal life too.

Recently, a number of physicians, engineers, mayors, bureaucrats, tradespersons, Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders and university students have fallen victim to such online cheating.

Some Bangladeshi nationals also are in collusion with the Indian fraudsters.

The Lalbagh Division of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Detective Branch found the ring while investigating two lawsuits lodged at Pallabi and Jatrabari police station in the capital.

The DB recently arrested four of the criminal gang from different parts of the country. The investigation officers could know about the gang while quizzing them on remand.

Phone calls from India, money collects by Bangladeshis

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, DB’s Lalbagh Division deputy commissioner Mashiur Rahman said Indian scammers have been entrapping the physicians, engineers, government officials and businesspersons by identifying themselves as female officials, schoolteachers, and university students. The Indian nationals are fluent in Hindi and English. They make phone calls and grab videos while the Bangladeshi nationals, who are members of the gang, collect the money through MFSs by issuing threats to the victims. They launder the money to the Indian members of the gang through illegal ways (hundi).

People involved with the investigation informed Prothom Alo that the fraudsters from India’s Chennai, Madras, Rajasthan, Delhi and Bihar have been targeting the top officials and rich traders using photographs of women in Facebook profiles and WhatsApp. When the scamsters call, they do not talk; instead they run obscene videos so skillfully that it appears that a conversation is going on from the two sides.

According to the information the DB could collect, two government officials, a paediatrician of a medical college, an engineer, owner of a readymade garment factory, mayor of a pourashava from northern region, and university students have fallen victims to the crime. The fraudsters collected from Tk 50,000 to several lakhs from them.

Speaking about the transborder gang, DB’s officials involved with the investigation said many people stay in India for months for medical purposes. Many go there for travelling or studying. That time they become acquainted with people of that country. This is how the fraudsters from Bangladesh and India formed the gang.

DB officials informed Prothom Alo that they could identify two Indian nationals involved with the crimes. Legal actions will be taken against them through the Indian high commission, they added.

What the victims say

Speaking to Prothom Alo, a government official who is a victim, on Thursday said he accepted the Facebook friend request from a high official from the neighbouring country. Initially, they had constructive discussions but the problems appeared when he received a video call on his WhatsApp a few days later.

Wishing not to be named, the official said, “There was no person at the other side of the video call but an obscene photo. I cut the call immediately.”

After five minutes of hanging up, the official received another call that demanded a large sum of money with a threat to share the video with his relatives and online after editing if the money was not paid.

Another victim said, “My family was about to fall apart as I had a clash with my wife when I was entrapped by the ring members. I was also humiliated in the eyes of my relatives and colleagues.”