In Ratnagiri town, two housewives fell for a fake Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) lottery promising a payout last week of Rs 25 lakh. After being tricked into paying "processing fees" to earn the refund, they lost more than Rs 5 lakh.
On 11 November, both Kaiserbanu Kazi (43) and Rehana Bhatkar (35) received a message on WhatsApp featuring the faces of KBC host Amitabh Bachchan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chairman Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries Limited, urging them to "collect their prizes urgently." The text messages were followed by an audio message recorded by a person pretending to be the director of a branch of the State Bank of India in Mumbai and responsible for transferring the lottery prize money to the winners' bank accounts. In the expectation that they would claim their prize, both women contacted a phone number listed in the text message the following day.
However, to be eligible to win the award, the dishonest bank manager asked Bhatkar to pay a processing fee of Rs 12,300 and Rs 25,000 to 'convert' her savings bank account to a current account. When the manager asked her to pay Rs 45,000 more instead of moving the prize into her bank account, Bhatkar realized that she had been duped.
Kazi ended up handling a total of Rs 5 lakh for "processing fees", "currency conversion", "bank account conversion", "GST" and even a tribunal to keep the Central Bureau of Investigation from investigating a particular group of fraudsters.
Last week, both women filed FIRs, naming three persons in their complaints as accused: a bank manager, the bank account holders to whom they were told to move the money.
Police station Inspector Anil Lad of Ratnagiri City said his officers were in the process of identifying the fraudsters. "The defendants aren't residents. We're trying to find them here,' he said.