Beware the world wide web of lies

For a mere Rs 8,000, a gang of blackmailers weaved an intricate web of love and deceit and trapped an 18-year-old boy. Abhishek Rasam, a B Com student, who was from a poor family and had no means of coughing up the money, ended up paying with his life by lying on the tracks between Dadar and Matunga station on Valentine’s Day. Rasam could be the victim of a gang which lures young boys on Facebook posing as girls, and then extorts money by threatening to file an FIR against them for sending lewd text messages and photographs.

A front page report in this paper yesterday highlighted the tragic case. Rasam’s case is highly unfortunate because the boy, fearing humiliation, took the extreme step. We read about and hear hundreds of cases of people being fooled and cheated online in different ways. Some of the most common are sexually-related, others pertain to finance. In the former, people are being fooled by potential ‘love’ partners, promises of marriage and requests for sex via chats and even pictures on social media. In other cases, con artists posing as different people on social media make a business of luring and deceiving people out of their money.

The social media is a very convenient couch for con artists. One can pretend what one is not, fake identities, exaggerate claims online and generally, it is conducive to deceitful lies by those inclined because one can hide one’s true self in these mediums.

It is time people learn to treat claims and promises which seem to be too good to be true with skepticism. Question those claims, ask those you are chatting with for an identity, red lights and red flags must go up at regular intervals. In case a person you have met online is asking for compromising pictures, money for loans or projects that seem highly implausible, it is most probably a fraud. Sometimes, even very intelligent people may get swept away.

So enticing is this medium. Weigh the words of the person you are corresponding with, think about what they are saying, and most importantly, when in doubt, cut that person out of your correspondence altogether. Caution is key in this medium.

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