She transferred funds to various accounts, believing she could help secure his release from Indian customs and other enforcement agencies. While the case bears the hallmarks of the infamous ‘friendship fraud’ notoriously common in the cybercrime world, the middle-aged woman is currently undergoing therapy as she refuses to believe her foreign friend, who claimed to have landed in India bearing diamond jewellery and other gifts, never existed!
Cybercrime experts say the scam is usually carried out by perpetrators claiming to be US or UK residents. Their targets: Middle-aged men or women from rural areas who post photographs of their material acquisitions like new houses, luxury cars, or foreign trips.
In this case, the woman said she received a friend request from one James Dawson from the UK on Facebook in April this year. Intrigued by the prospect of connecting with someone from the UK, a country she is familiar with due to her son’s current employment there, she accepted the request.
I used Google Translate to understand the messages he sent in English and respond to him in English using the same tool. We started chatting and became good friends. After some time, he expressed his desire to meet and volunteered to come down to India. I was excited to meet him,” said the woman.
Following the cyber fraud script, James Dawson called her, claiming he had landed in India but was held by customs for bearing expensive gifts for her. He urged her to talk to the customs officer and make the necessary payments. “I first made payments to the customs, then to the RBI. Recently, I was asked to make payments to the United Nations, who said they would certify that my payments towards Dawson’s release would not be used for terror funding. I spent nearly Rs 80 lakh. Then, they asked for more money and asked me to borrow the amount to close the case,” said the woman.
Eager to help her dear friend, she approached her friends to raise the money. One of them, a cybercrime volunteer, told her she seemed to have become a victim of cyber fraud, but the woman remained resolute in her belief in her friend’s sincerity. “I will have to confess to my husband about this issue, but I will get to the bottom of Dawson’s case,” said the woman.
Meanwhile, officials of the cybercell of Gujarat CID (crime) said sometime back, an elderly villager from Mehsana had fallen similarly for a “lady friend” from the UK and paid Rs 75 lakh for her release when she landed in India to meet him. When family members alerted the police, they arrested a Nigerian man from Delhi for running the con.
“The elderly man refused to believe the woman did not exist and he had become a victim of fraud. People need to educate their family members about prevalent cybercrime to safeguard their financial and social interests,” said the officer.