How I was about to be duped?

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

By Amit Sharma, CFE, M.Sc.

A personal Account #Ever evolving modus operandi #Criminals getting bold and sound authentic #Please pay attention to my observations/ suggestions) in bracketed italics, while reading an interesting defrauding attempt . Recently, I did not pick up a call being from an unknown number (remain vigilant). I called this Mobile Number 0000000000 after confirming his _rue caller ID as DP Harpal. The person identified to be calling from Police HQ (PHQ) (Police calls are generally from landline numbers) and intimated to me that he called up to tell me that Complaint Number 0000/2016/2021/LA (Legal Authority) (this number showed two years in its case file and thus doubtful) against me will come up for hearing tomorrow in _____City (this place I have not visited for many years now). He sounded confident and spoke in a Hindi accent prevalent in the Northern part of the National Capital Region. He stated that two summons (creating pressure) were sent to me at my address, to which I had not responded (he possibly obtained my address from my mobile phone number). He was in possession of my correct address. Then on inquiring, he said that this complaint is for some outstanding payment which is due to some Chowdhary, then told it could be related to some of my international travel or some outstanding payment related to internet payments (he was probing and trying to find answers and it sounded like a reasonable preliminary investigation, I was trying to keep my composure and make him believe that I was surprised by such a call).

He also stated that failure to present tomorrow at the court will result in my PAN card and UDAI (Aadhar) card being blocked (pressure tactic 1) as the Company has filed a case under section 420 (pressure tactic 2, this kind of offenses like faltering payment of bills, etc. fall under the category of civil suit offenses, whereas 420 is a criminal offense, in which police investigation precedes hearing in court, as told by my advocate in the latter half of the day). He then provided to me the mobile number of the complainant as 0000000000. I was told to find out more details from this number and intimate the DP Harpal number of the outcome within 5 minutes (pressure tactic 3).

(Saviour: I consulted my advocate. He suggested I find out more particulars of the case from the given number and that it could be a fraud and not pay the money).

Now, I called up the gentleman on the given number, who identified himself as an Advocate ABC (_rue caller ID Dheeraj Jhandi). He also sounded confident and genuine. He conducted a search of the Case Number on his hard disk, which I had provided. After a check, he said that Rs. 45300/- are pending as outstanding payment against the Service provider's internet connection and said that he was intimating me on behalf of the Service provider. He said that the first hearing of the case is mandatory for me (pressure tactic 4, an advocate can also represent as suggested earlier by my advocate). He further stated that I have to present myself in front of the Judicial Magistrate Mr. ABC at Court Number 0 _a_i_l_ Court (later found out none called Mr. ABC was present in the stated court). He suggested that if I pay the outstanding amount today, it will be Rs. 45300/-, and tomorrow the charges will increase to Rs 1.17 lakhs (Pressure tactic 5) which will include court charges amongst others.

(I again called up my advocate. He was sure that it was a fraud and suggested I find more details).

I intimated the inputs received from the Service provider's advocate to the DP Harpal Number when he called me again, and this Number suggested I go for out of court settlement (having instilled fear, tried to lure me. He again sounded genuine) and to intimate him the outcome of the conversation.

I called up the given number again, and asked the Service provider’s advocate the cost of out of court settlement, which he negotiated to Rs 35,900/- and recommended me the mode of payment to the Service provider Account, through internet banking, quoting the case file number in the transfer (he made all efforts to build up my confidence to initiate payment which I was delaying). He asked through which bank I will transfer it to the Service provider, to which I suggested through a Private Bank net banking facility. He also asked me whether I can pay the amount through a digital wallet and online wallet System and suggested a few services. I said I do not use these services. I asked for the account number, which he was ready to provide. I said I will call him back to take the Account Number and I called up the DP Harpal number, which was not picked up initially, and called me later.

The DP Harpal number now told me that the case was listed against Mr. Someone Else and not against me and that he was extremely sorry for the inconvenience.

The complete conversation on a Sunday (?) with all stakeholders lasted for approximately two and a half hours.

I later called up the Service provider’s advocate Mobile Number to confirm that it was a case against Mr. Someone Else, but he did not pick up the call.

Confirmatory Tests

Late in the evening, I checked the cause-list in that city through another known advocate. The given case number was wrong and the name of the Judge given was again wrong. The next day I ensured my presence at the court through an advocate to ascertain any ambiguity if any. No such case was listed in the designated court. Everything was cooked up by the fraudsters.

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By Amit Sharma, CFE, M.Sc.

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