On that cold and windy morning when even the Sun had decided not to show up, I was feeling like not leaving my quilt easily. But the unpleasant ring on my mobile forced me to open my eyes. The call was from an international number, but the caller said in a Punjabi accent,” mubaraq ho ji! Main aap ki telephone company se bol raha hoon !Aapki pandrah lakh assi hazar ki lottery lagi hai hamari company ki taraf se! (Congratulations! I am calling from your telephone company! You have won a lottery from our telephone company amounting to Rs. Fifteen lakhs eighty thousands!) On earlier such occasions, I used to disconnect the telephone, but this time I thought to have some entertainment in the otherwise boring morning,” Meri lottery! Badi khushi ki baat hai! Main abhi aap ke office ja kar paise le aati hoon!”(Wow! I won a lottery! I am so excited! I will just go to your company’s office and collect the money!) Now, either the man on the other end was too innocent or was too confident of his plan; he took me seriously and started giving me details about the so called lottery. He informed me that I had to deposit forty eight thousand rupees in a bank account number to be given by him and the lottery amount would be transferred to my bank account within five minutes.
I pretended as if I completely believed him and was too happy to win the lottery. It so happened that the conversation which I had expected to last only few minutes, continued for more than half an hour. The man asked me to call on his number so that he could give me details but I refused on the ground of not having balance in my mobile (Come on! Don’t expect me to spend on ISD call for getting defrauded!) The poor man was forced to spend on ISD call explaining me details about the procedure. I said innocently,” Why don’t you do one thing? You can deduct forty eight thousand rupees from my lottery amount and give rest to me?” The man on the other side appeared to be beating his head as he told me in an irritated voice that this was Government procedure and I had to deposit the money first to get the lottery amount. He said that I had to withdraw five lakh rupees from the lottery amount on the same day. Also, he asked me to switch off my mobile phone after the conversation, reason being if somebody would know this, he would duplicate my SIM card and take my lottery amount leaving me repenting. He made me swear not to tell anybody including my husband. When I argued that I wanted to make my husband happy by telling this, he said,” Bas yahi to baat aap samjhate nahi ho! Khushi me aapke husbnd ne kisi ko bata diya to? Aap ka paisa koi aur le jayega SIM card duplicate kar ke! Is se achchha hai, jaa kar paise jama karao, fir apne bank se paanch lakh nikalwao aur mithai ka dabba lekar wapas aao! kitne khush honge aapke pati? (You do not understand the matter! What if your husband tells anybody in excitement? Somebody would take your money by duplicating the SIM card! It is better; you deposit forty eight thousand rupees first, then withdraw five lakh rupees from your bank account and then return home with a pack of sweets! How pleased your husband would be?)”. I pretended to agree with him. The man repeatedly told me that he regarded me as his sister and like a brother he was advising me for my betterment. (Am I such a good actress that I appeared foolish enough to believe him?)
During the conversation, I tried to get the bank account number from him, but the man was smart enough not to disclose the number in advance. He insisted that I should go in front of the bank, and then give him a call to know the account number.
After disconnecting the phone I was discussing with my husband whether we could do anything to trap the conman, on getting his next call. But in his next call, the man started scolding at me for not switching off my mobile phone. Also, he told me that the whole media including all TV channels and newspapers was sitting with him and my silly queries were being recorded by them. This time I made an excuse that I didn’t know how to operate an ATM and had to tell my husband to deposit the money. The man seemed to be a bit apprehensive, but when I said my husband was too happy to know this, he was relieved. He made me promise that I would make my husband swear not to tell it to anybody.
I had enjoyed the entire conversation but now wanted to end the matter so I decided not to attend his call again, but the man appeared to be keener to give me 15 lakh rupees. After 25 missed calls, I attended the phone thinking I would refuse to take the lottery amount, but he gave me no chance to speak. “ aapko lottery leni hai ki main kisi aur ko de doon? Subah se aapki file lekar baitha hoon, saare media wale baithe hain, thodi der men aapka naam TV par aa jaayega ki aapne lottery chhod di! (Whether you want the lottery amount or should I give it to somebody else? I am working on your file since morning, media reporters are sitting with me. In a short while, your name will be announced on TV for refusing your lottery amount! ) The authority in his voice and his harsh tone made me feel guilty at once as if I had done something wrong. I told him that my husband was in a meeting and will deposit the money after some time.
I decided not to attend his call anymore, but the man seemed to be determined to kill me with missed calls! After 10 more missed calls, when I attended the phone hoping to end the matter, he scolded, “ aap mere sath cheating kar rahe ho ji! Mera time waste kar rahe ho! Ab to mera phone bhi nahi attend kar rahe ho!” (You are cheating me! You are wasting my time! Now you are not even attending my phone! )
” Now, this is called kaliyug!” I thought. A conman is accusing me of cheating him for not falling in his trap.
In the meantime we had found out from cybercrime cell officials that many such cases were being reported, yet nothing could be done by police, as there were many organised rackets behind such crimes pretending to be calling from a reputed company and cheating people in the name of lottery. The innocent victims deposited the money asked, and within five minutes of depositing the money, it was withdrawn from some ATM in a remote place. Police was able to trace the bank account in many cases, but they were found belonging to some uneducated villagers in very remote areas, who were not even aware of the banking procedures.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with the caller and also had the satisfaction that I had made him spend a lot of money in ISD call, I still wonder that with the confidence and convincing power the man was showing, how many innocent persons might have fallen in his trap and parted with their money!
P.S.: The caller seems to be so impressed with the foolishness shown by me, that he has still not lost his hopes and I can find at least one missed call from him every day on my phone.