New Delhi, December 31, 2017

If you get a phone call or email claiming customs officers have stopped clearance of gift or parcel for want of a certain amount towards import duty, then beware, you are being duped.

The customs department has been getting a number of complaints from across the country on this latest modus operandi of fraudsters, following which a precautionary alert has been issued. “Instances have come to the notice that number of persons are getting telephonic calls as well as e-mail and letters by post asking them to deposit money in individual bank accounts claiming that customs officer have stopped clearance/release of gift parcels/rewards unless a certain amount is deposited towards customs duties, penalties etc. and a bank account number is also given where the money is to be deposited,” the Delhi customs said in a public notice. Another common modus operandi is to send an e-mail stating that the recipient has won a prize or a parcel has been sent and money needs to be deposited, it said. “All such calls/mail are fake with the sole intention of cheating the public. The general public is hereby notified and forewarned not to respond to such fake calls/mails as customs officers do not make telephonic calls or send such mails to deposit amounts in individual bank accounts,” the recently- issued notice said.

The customs department is not responsible in any way for such fraudulent incidents and complaints, if any, in this regard may be made to the police, it suggested. In a recent case, a daughter of a senior IPS officer has been duped of Rs 50,000, a senior custom officer said. He said the victim was asked to deposit Rs 50,000 in a bank account of a person she befriended on the Internet. “The accused claimed to be a native of London and chatted using a fraudulent ID. The girl said that the accused claimed to have been stopped by customs officers for want of clearance of an expensive gift brought by him for her. The girl then deposited the money in his account only to realise it later that she was duped,” the officer said.

Another such case had come from Hyderabad where a woman was duped of a large amount of money following the same modus operandi, he said.

“What is happening in a majority of cases is that accused pose as a single girl/woman living abroad. After befriending victims over the Internet and at times through phone calls,the accused would then seek money in a bank account for payment of customs duty against a precious gift claimed to have been brought by her. People get in this trap and deposit money in the account only to lose it,” the officer said.

[The Financial Express]