Hyderabad: ‘With love, from Darjeeling’ could well be how they actually sign off their love letters. However, this new crop of fraudsters, holing up in dingy hideouts somewhere in Darjeeling, Siliguri and Kolkata, send their fraud love across the country, with the lovelorn victims on the other side never realising from where all the sudden love via the web is coming, till they see the trap they are in.
Cybercrime officials in the city say several spots in West Bengal are now the hub for fraudsters focusing on what cops call ‘friendship frauds’ or ‘dating frauds’. Using a different digital version of the age-old honey trap, these crooks, which include con-women working in groups with the help of men, are targeting those who are in search of some love and relief from the web, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic robbing them of their other avenues of succor.
“After the lockdown, there has been an increase in friendship and dating fraud cases. A sizable number of victims are above the age of 40 years, and are easily getting conned on friendship or dating apps,” said KVM Prasad, ACP (Cybercrime), Hyderabad.
An analysis by the police of cases in recent weeks revealed that victims were mostly men working from home or businessmen who are sitting idle in their stores.
“In many cases, they befriended victims through Facebook or other social networking mobile apps. As usual, the fraudsters tricked them into explicit chats and actions, recorded their acts, and blackmailed them,” the ACP said.
However, the fraudsters usually demand amounts below Rs.50,000 to be on the safer side. Victims, for fear of social stigma and also because sometimes the amounts lost are small, do not come out or lodge complaints with the police.
The fraudster purposefully chooses victims from far off States so that even the police won’t come so far for such small amounts.
“But the Telangana police have made it a point to send a team to track and nab the fraudsters whenever a case is reported no matter how small or big the amount is, so that it will act as a deterrent for the criminals. We also make sure that the local police become aware of the illegal activity in their jurisdiction,” another official said.
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