Internet fraud: Duo pocketed 1.20 cr from gullible 'winners'

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Lucknow, Dec 31 (UNI) The two Ajmer residents arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh police for running a fake online lottery had managed to pocket a massive Rs 1.20 crore from hundreds of gullible people.

Yesterday, the STF had claimed to have busted an Internet or the 'Nigerian letter' fraud with the arrest of two persons in Ajmer, Rajasthan on Saturday.

Abdul Qadir and Deepak have been charged with playing fraud on gullible persons in the name of an online lottery. Initial investigations have revealed that the two had pocketed Rs 1.20 crore within a span of two months. Their victims hailed mostly from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. ''A sustained interrogation would reveal how they got the money and where they kept it,'' said an STF official here.

''The Internet fraud is also called the 'Nigerian letter' fraud as an internet user with an e-mail address is asked for smaller sums of money as a process fee to get a multi-million dollar Internet lottery. ''We used the best of our computer and Internet skills to button-hole the criminals,'' he said.

The two used to send e-mails to people informing them that they have won a big lottery. They then used to demand small sums ranging from US dollars 200-700 as insurance money, processing fee and Value Added Tax (VAT) before the lottery amount could be handed over to them.

A fake Reserve Bank of India (RBI) letter seeking fees to get foreign exchange was also sent out to the gullible ''winners.'' The lottery money, obviously, never came.

Also called 'advance-fee fraud', the Nigerian letter fraud is a confidence trick in which the target is persuaded to advance relatively small sums of money in the hope of realising a much larger gain. Among the variations on this type of scam are '419 fraud' and the 'Spanish Prisoner fraud.' The 419 scam originated in the early 1980s as the oil-based economy of Nigeria went downhill. Several unemployed university students first used this scam as a means of manipulating business visitors interested in shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector before targeting businessmen in the West, and later the wider population.

Early variants were often sent via letter, fax, or telex.

The spread of e-mail and easy access to email-harvesting software made the cost of sending scam letters through the Internet extremely cheap. In the 2000s, the 419 scam spurred imitations from other locations in Africa and Eastern Europe.

The number '419' refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: ''Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating'') dealing with fraud.

The advance-fee fraud is similar to a much older scam known as the ''Spanish Prisoner'' scam. The fictitious prisoner would promise to share non-existent treasure with the person who would send them money to bribe their guards.


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