Monday, January 19, 2015

Do not fall prey to unsolicited offers of funds from abroad!


“Greed does not rest until it is satisfied”- Sam EastlandIn the modern era of smart phones, e-mail, internet and Facebook, fraudsters have become much smarter than the users of these technologies. They befriend people on social media platforms like Facebook making starry promises and one fine day they rob you of your hard earned money. Many a times, we receive SMSes out of the blue with messages of winning lotteries, from national and international companies. We are awestruck with such amounts of Dollars and Pounds but hardly reason out how any one on this planet can give you so much wealth for free. Similarly our e-mail boxes are flooded with so many enticing offers that it becomes hard to resist. But at the end of the day our greed overrides all our judgment and we are waylaid by these fraudsters and lose lakhs of rupees in the process.

Of late, gullible members of the public in Sikkim are falling prey to fictitious offers of funds from abroad. Many innocent people in the state have lost their hard earned money by falling prey to these fraudsters. The only way to get rid of this type of menace is by becoming more aware on the modus operandi of these fraudsters. We have come across many victims who have taken loan and borrowed money from various sources to get that “lottery” or “parcel” containing dollars and pounds sent from abroad by their so called “friends”.

1.What are the different methods adopted by the fraudsters to cheat the public?Fictitious offers may relate to lottery winnings / remittance of cheap funds in foreign currency from abroad/ employment offers / scholarship offers /job offers / emigration visas/admissions to reputed overseas universities, etc. They are generally made through letters, e-mails, mobile phones, SMSes etc. Apart from the typical modalities adopted in the past, the fraudsters are now resorting to issue of certificates, letters, circulars, etc., which are sent through e-mail, on letter-heads that look like that of the Reserve Bank of India and purportedly signed by its top executives / senior officials to make them appear as genuine. The fraudsters also convince the victims by impersonating as senior officials of the Reserve Bank with telephone numbers and/or fictitious e-mail IDs. Fraudsters seek money from the gullible people, under different heads, such as, processing fees/ transaction fees/ tax clearance charges/ conversion charges, clearing fees, etc. The potential victims of the fraud are persuaded to deposit the amount in accounts with various banks in India. Once the initial amount demanded is deposited, the money is withdrawn immediately from the account and fresh demands for an even higher amount follows in the name of transaction tax, registration money, etc.

2.What is fictitious about such offers?Unfortunately everything about these offers is fictitious - from the email IDs used to contact the potential victims to the person calling on phone and also the offer itself.

3.But the caller or mailer states that the money is held in RBI in an account in the name of individual / company / trust and that RBI will disburse the fund only when the amount asked for is deposited in the bank? 
The Reserve Bank does not maintain any accounts in the names of individuals /companies / trusts, etc., for disbursals. RBI also does not open accounts for individuals to deposit money with the Reserve Bank. Further, RBI does not issue certificates or confirmations or receipts evidencing the holding of money in these accounts. The Reserve Bank does not authorise any of its officials for such disbursals.

4.What if someone still remits the money for participating in these schemes / offers?The money that is deposited in the account is withdrawn almost immediately after it has been deposited. So naturally the money is lost, but more importantly, the individual has violated the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 by doing this. In terms of the Current Account Rules framed under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, remittances in any form towards participation in lottery schemes or lottery like schemes, functioning under different names like money circulation scheme or remittances for the purpose of securing prize money/awards etc., are prohibited. Accordingly, action can be taken against any person residing in India for collecting and effecting / remitting such payments directly/indirectly outside India for contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

5. Why is RBI not investigating such crimes?The Reserve Bank does not have any investigative powers to trace and book the culprits. Directorate of Enforcement is the investigating agency under FEMA, 1999. The victims of frauds should approach the local police which is authorised to take action against such fraudsters and also ensure that such frauds do not occur in future.

6.What should an individual do when he receives such fake offers?The citizens should ignore such communications and not pay any money to participate in such schemes. They should immediately contact the local police / Cyber Crime Cell to register their complaint. In case of any doubts regarding such fictitious offers received, the public may refer to the Reserve Bank's website ( for clarifications. In case of Sikkim the Nodal Office where all such crimes can be reported is SP, CID, Sikkim Police

So let’s ignore all such lucrative offers and let rational judgment prevail on us. Let’s not forget that nothing comes free in this world except for some of the natural resources such as air and sunshine. We should check the credentials of the offers before responding to any of them.

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