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3 engineers lured by credit card offer, new phones; lose Rs 24 lakh

Bengaluru: Three private firm employees in Whitefield lost over Rs 24 lakh to a cyber scamster who convinced them that he was an official from Citibank’s credit card unit.

In all three cases, the victims were conned by the same suspect — Manish Sharma — and lost the money after completing a “verification process” on mobile phones they received in courier packages.

While 38-year-old Rakesh Anand (name changed) fell prey to the scam on October 14, 46-year-old Hrithik Kumar (name changed) and 37-year-old Hardik Das (name changed) were allegedly conned on October 22 and October 17, respectively.

Anand filed a complaint with the Whitefield Cyber Economic and Narcotics Crime (CEN) police on October 24, while Kumar and Das filed the complaints on October 23 and October 28, respectively.

The fraud

The three victims first received a phone call from Sharma, who identified himself as an official from Citibank’s premium credit card department, the police complaints noted.

Anand told DH that the suspect asked him to apply for a Citibank credit card.

“They called me from a different number, but the WhatsApp number which they used to send me the link to apply for the card, returned to the actual IVR of Citibank,” Anand said.

Sharma informed the three victims that they would receive an Android phone through the ‘Porter’ courier service.

Anand received the package containing a non-premium Redmi 12C mobile phone with a Citibank sticker on October 14, Kumar received it on October 22 and Das on October 17. Sharma convinced them to complete a two-way verification process.

The victims used their personal SIM cards on the Redmi phones. Sharma asked Anand to send the text message ‘FORWAD’ to an unidentified number, the victim told the police.

Kumar was allegedly asked to send the messages, ‘VERIFY ULTIMA 8931’ and ‘121 FORWAD’, to an unidentified number. Das was also asked to send ‘FORWAD’ to an unknown number.

Anand later found out that he lost Rs 3,68,946 from his three credit cards, while Kumar said that he lost Rs 6,70,424 from his Citibank credit card.

Das, however, lost Rs 14,32,925 from his IDFC First Bank credit card and bank account.

The three phones were handed to the police and were being analysed as part of the probe.

Pre-installed apps in handsets

A well-placed police source revealed toDH that such scamsters send bugged phones with dubious pre-installed applications.

The victims are convinced that they can use their personal SIM cards in them. But these phones are programmed in such a way that when the SIM card is installed, money gets debited from credit cards and bank accounts linked to the phone number.

“Since such scamsters obtain the bank and card details from the victims through subterfuge, the bugged phones help redirect the One Time Passwords (OTPs) to either emails, mobile phones or Telegram accounts of the scamsters,” the official said.

(Published 29 October 2023, 21:49 IST)

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