* ‘Lottery winners’ get registered on phone (and get robbed)!
By Hasan Ali
LAHORE: Con artists keep on inventing new ways to deprive people of their money, as after cyber crimes and automated teller machine (ATM) card scams, criminals have started approaching people through phone calls, text messages, and visiting their houses, urging them to register for their schemes and get the ‘rewards’ awaiting them.
“Congratulations! You have just won a prize of Rs 1 million. File your claim by depositing Rs 10,000 to commence the process of releasing your cash prize,” says one of the messages circulated by such swindlers. The tricksters first win the confidence of people and lure them in by assuring them of ‘guaranteed’ prizes. After the ‘beneficiary’ gets registered with the company, it turns out to be a fake call and the ‘winner’ loses his/her money spent on registration.
Door-to-door: One of the reported incidents involved a gang of swindlers, calling people on the phone and telling them that they had won a cash prize of Rs 500,000. The gang members ask the receiver for their name and contact details so that their (gang’s) members could visit them for registration.
They usually charge Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 as a ‘non-refundable’ registration fee, and leave the place telling the ‘winner’ that they will be back with the prize money after a few days. However, no one returns, and the ‘lucky winner’ is left waiting with dreams and hopes.
Mazhar Hussain, a resident of Hafizabad, told Daily Times that he had received a call from an unknown number a few days ago, and the caller had told him that he had won a cash prize of Rs 500,000. “I gave him my address and their three-member team paid me a visit after two days. They asked me to register for the lottery by paying them Rs 2,000, which I did. Then they left, telling me that they will come back within a week,” he said.
He said that he waited for the cash for 10 days, and then called on the number from which he had received the call, but found it switched off. “I was the happiest man on earth when I was declared a winner, but I ended up losing Rs 2,000,” said Hussain.
Property: Another way the swindlers have adopted to strip people of their money is by telling them that they have won a plot in a lucky draw.
The winner is told to become a member of that group if he/she wants to get the property. They tell the receiver that the membership fee for the scheme is between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000, which he/she must deposit at their office. However, when the winner deposits the amount, he/she is told that development work is in progress in the housing society, and the plot will be allotted after the completion of the work. After some time, the beneficiary finds out that no such housing society ever existed.
Recharge of balance: People have also complained about swindlers sending text messages, telling the receiver that he/she has won a cash prize, but has to register before claiming it. Such swindlers do not accept money, and ask the receiver to text them the serial number and the personal identification number (PIN) of a mobile-phone scratch card. After the card is used, the subscriber identity module (SIM) of the person offering the prize turns out to be illegal. Such con artists have also been reported to be using wireless phones.
Asim Qayyum, a resident of Green Town, said that he had received a phone call some days ago from a Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) wireless number, and the caller – pretending to be a PTCL employee – had told him that the company had started ‘registering’ numbers. “He told me to send a scratch card of Rs 500, as according to the company’s policy, they could not receive cash. He also told me that I will receive a payment-confirmation call from the PTCL,” he said.
Qayyum said that he followed the directions and waited for a day to receive the confirmation call, which never came. “When I called the person back, his number was not responding. Then I contacted the PTCL customer care officer, who told me that there was no such campaign,” he said.
Officers at the mobile phone and wireless companies, including The PTCL, told Daily Times that they had received a number of such complaints, and had asked the authorities concerned to take action against people holding numbers that were involved in such scams. They also said that such bogus messages and calls were damaging their companies’ repute.
Source: Daily Times, 16/7/2008