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How to steer clear of web of deceit

How to steer clear of web of deceit

With a keen eye for vulnerability, this scammer scoured matrimonial websites, targeting women from metropolitan areas and swindling them out of lakhs and crores.

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Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 23:10 IST
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 23:10 IST
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In a recent disturbing trend in urban areas, single and divorced women are falling victim to elaborate schemes orchestrated by cunning criminals on matrimonial websites and social media. In today’s digital age, the quest for companionship often leads individuals to online platforms, including matrimonial websites. These platforms promise hope and possibility, connecting individuals looking for life partners. However, they are also hotbeds of scams targeting vulnerable women. Perpetrated by professional conmen, these schemes prey on the emotions and wallets of unsuspecting individuals.

In the recent past, we have had around eight cases reported from one part of Bengaluru city alone, and the money lost ranges from Rs 45,000 to Rs 70 lakh. In many cases, the victim had not met the conman in person during the entire time of their association and had still given money to him. The repercussions of falling victim to such scams extend far beyond financial loss. Many suffer from feelings of shame, embarrassment and betrayal, which exacerbate their pain and trauma, leading to under-reporting and fewer registered cases.

One such case involved a tech-savvy con artist who operated in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. With a keen eye for vulnerability, this scammer scoured matrimonial websites, targeting women from metropolitan areas and swindling them out of lakhs and crores. He duped women into transferring significant sums of money under the guise of marriage preparations, only to squander it in casinos in Las Vegas, Sri Lanka and online gambling.

The modus operandi is simple — these conmen spin a tale of deceit that seems assuring and full of love and support.

In the said case, the scammer presented himself as a successful individual residing abroad. To facilitate his supposed relocation, he convinced the victim to fund expenses related to visa applications and other prerequisites. When the victim expressed financial constraints, the scammer resorted to emotional blackmail and coercive tactics, forcing her to take loans or borrow from friends and family.

To lend credibility to his narrative, the scammer orchestrated interactions between the victim’s family members and fictitious relatives of his own, often using voice-changing technology. He impersonated his purported family members and created a facade of family and social support for the proposed marriage and relocation plans. Capitalising on the victim’s aspirations for a brighter future, the scammer dangled the promise of a fresh start in a foreign land.

Exploiting her aspirations for a better life, the conman manipulated the victim emotionally and isolated her from support networks, including friends and family members who may have offered objective advice or raised concerns about the authenticity of the relationship. Fabricated identities, elaborate back stories, and simulated family interactions were all part of the carefully orchestrated scheme to exploit vulnerabilities and extract financial gain. Once the money was transferred or the woman had nothing left, the scammer vanished, leaving her behind with shattered dreams and in financial ruin.

Women who use matrimonial websites or social media to seek companionship must protect themselves from falling prey to such nefarious schemes. Here are 10 strategies to safeguard against
such scams: 

Verify identities: Exercise caution when interacting with individuals online. Verify the identity of your potential suitor through social media profiles, video calls, and in-person meetings.

Do your research: Conduct thorough background checks on your potential partner, including their employment history, financial claims, and social circle. 

Beware of red flags: Pay attention to inconsistencies such as discrepancies in their personal details, reluctance to provide their background information, or reluctance to meet.

Guard your financial information: Never share sensitive financial information or transfer money to someone you have not met or fully trust. 

Stay vigilant: Remain vigilant for signs of manipulation or coercion such as pressure to make rushed decisions
or requests for large sums
of money.

Confide and seek advice from trusted sources: Consult with friends, family members, or legal professionals before making significant financial commitments or decisions related to marriage.

Know about cons: Familiarise yourself with tactics used by scammers to defraud individuals on social media and matrimonial websites.

Trust your instincts: If something feels too good to be true, trust your instincts and proceed with caution. 

Report suspicious activity: If you encounter suspicious behaviour or believe you have been targeted by a scammer, report the individual to the authorities. 

Prioritise self-care: Take time to heal from any
past traumas or emotional wounds before embarking on new relationships.

(The writer is the Deputy Commissioner of Police, South East division, Bengaluru)

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