Woman conned out of life savings by fake TV contest

She was told she had won the contest and would receive a car, gold and a cash prize, but would first have to pay road tax; she deposited over Rs 1 lakh in four accounts

Many people dream of winning a television contest and the windfall that is sure to follow, but for a woman in Khed, winning such a contest cost her all her life savings. Required to identify celebrities from pictures displayed on the screen, the victim sent a text message correctly identifying the actress Lisa Ray. But before she could collect her Rs 12.5 lakh SUV or the gold and cash prize that was promised to her, she had to pay Rs 1.02 in road tax, she was informed.

RR Patil
A police complaint was filed only after the victim wrote to RR Patil (Home Minister then). The Chakan Police are investigating the case.

Once she had transferred the money, she never heard from the contest organisers again. When she realised she had been duped, she tried reaching out to the police, who allegedly did not heed her complaint. Only after she approached R R Patil, who was Home Minister then, did the police finally take cognisance of her grievance. The Chakan police registered a complaint on Saturday, several months after the fraud took place.

It was in May, when Khed-based Radhabai Krushna Rakshe (40) saw an advertisement on a movie channel that promised a car, gold ornaments and cash in winnings if viewers could correctly answer a question. Rakshe, a widow and daily wage labourer on farms who supported her 14-year-old son alone, was instantly hooked by the promise.

“From March, I had been seeing such advertisements on the channel, which mentioned that if I guessed the correct name of a celebrity, I could win an SUV, cash and gold ornaments. They used to show other people winning the contest, and I too thought, it’s a good opportunity. So in May, I thought of participating. My son recognised the Bollywood actress Lisa Ray from the picture on the screen, and I messaged them (contest organisers) immediately,” she said.

“Three days later, I received a call from a person who identified himself as Verma, and said he was working at Tata Motors in Guwahati. He said that the contest organisers had informed him that I had won, and that I was to receive an SUV worth R12.5 lakh. He asked for my address and informed me about home delivery charges and road taxes for the car,” she added.

Before Rakshe could claim her winnings, she was asked to transfer Rs 60,000 first, for road tax. When she asked him whether she could just collect cash instead of the SUV, she was asked to deposit more money, to pay yet more road tax, and also a conversion fee so she could collect the cash equivalent of the vehicle. She deposited a total of Rs 1,02,900 in four different bank accounts, and then suddenly, heard no more from the man.

“I contacted the contest organisers but got no response, and even contacted the channel which showed the  advertisements, but they told me that they were not responsible for anything that had happened,” recalled Rakshe, adding, “I was shocked to hear this. All my hard-earned money had gone down the drain. I approached police but they did not take cognisance of my complaint either. Then I wrote a letter to Mr Patil (Home Minister then) and also to the Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural), after which my complaint was registered.”

Sub-inspector Mahesh Munde of Chakan police station, who is investigating the case, said he was not aware of any issues Rakshe had faced in registering her complaint, and that he had begun investigations as soon as he received an application from her. “At present we have registered a case against a person named Verma, who presented himself as a sales manager of Tata Motors based in Guwahati. We have also approached the movie channel to help us in our investigation. If they do not co-operate, we will take legal action against them,” said Munde.

He added, “We have frozen the four bank accounts in which Verma had asked the woman to deposit the amount. Out of the four bank accounts, three were with State Bank of India, while another was at a multinational bank. We are still investigating the case.”

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