A Facebook friendship with a stranger cost a 59-year-old woman dearly after he pretended to send her expensive presents from the UK and convinced her to cough up close to Rs 10 lakh as 'taxes'.
In September last year, Juhu resident Kavita Arya (name changed) received a friend request on Facebook from an account by the name of John Adam Bryce, claiming to be a UK-based businessman. Arya accepted the request and the two started chatting on the social networking site. Later, they exchanged cell phone numbers.
“Over two to three months, Bryce gained Arya's trust completely and also told her about his 11-year-old daughter. Bryce told her he was buying gifts for his daughter and also wanted to buy some for Arya. Initially, the complainant declined the offer, but on Bryce's insistence she agreed to accept gifts from him,” said Shantanu Pawar, senior inspector of Santacruz police station.
Bryce told Arya that he had bought expensive gifts, including a diamond ring, and he was sending the items to India. He even sent pictures of the gifts to her to convince her he was telling the truth.
In the third week of January, Bryce informed her that he had sent valuables over Rs 60 lakh, including the diamond ring and £50,000 (about Rs 49 lakh). Then Arya received calls from two people who identified themselves as Dipti and Pawan, claiming to be officials from the Delhi International Airport. They told her the gifts had arrived but she would have to pay taxes and other charges to clear such a large amount of foreign currency into the country. When Arya contacted Bryce, he confirmed this and told her she had to pay.
Arya was made to deposit over Rs 9.8 lakh in different ICICI bank accounts. But when she was asked to pay even more money, she got suspicious. However, when she objected, the 'airport officials' frightened her saying she would be arrested for illegally taking expensive gifts from overseas unless she paid Rs 12.78 lakh. Arya fell for the trick and approached a friend to arrange the money. When her friend asked her why she needed so much money, she spilled the beans, and the friend told her it was fraud. Arya then approached the Santacruz police station and registered a case against Bryce, Dipti and Pawan. “We have registered a case of cheating and are trying to obtain the details of the Delhi-based bank accounts,” said Sr PI Pawar.
‘An online stranger can be a potential real life danger, #CyberSafetyWeek’ — this was MumbaiPolice’s most popular tweet during the cyber safety week drive last month.