A senior citizen couple in Faridabad were allegedly duped of ₹46 lakh over three days last December, by suspects posing as US law enforcement officers. This happened over multiple video and voice calls on WhatsApp, from December 12 to 14.
On December 12, the couple said they received a call on WhatsApp from a person who introduced himself as a US police officer, and claimed that the couple’s 35-year-old son, an engineer in the US, had been arrested in a rape case.
To “free” him, the couple were asked to pay the caller a bribe of ₹46 lakh. From December 12 to 14, the couple did not contact the police, neighbours or relatives, as they had been threatened by the man posing as the American police officer that if they reached out to anyone, their son would be in trouble.
Over time, the man who made the first call asked the couple to speak to multiple other people, who also posed as American law-enforcement officers.
That the whole saga was a fraud came to light on December 17, and a day later, the couple submitted a complaint to the Faridabad Police. After a month of preliminary investigation, a case was registered on January 18 under section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other relevant sections of the Information Technology Act at the Cyber Crime (central Faridabad) police station.
Surinder Singh, station house officer of the Cyber Crime (central Faridabad) police station, said, “We found that money was transferred to seven different accounts in Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland. The calls were made from Agra, Lucknow and Kanpur. The suspects used more than 10 different mobile numbers to make calls and to evade police arrest.” Singh said that the accused will be identified and arrested soon.
The father of the 35-year-old, a retired government official and a resident of Faridabad sector 15A, who asked not to be named, told HT, “My son has been living in the US for years, while my wife and I live here. The first caller said that my son has been arrested in the US, and if want to free him, we need to pay money. We panicked, and requested the caller to connect us to him.”
The couple then received a voice call, and heard their son, or what sounded like their son, crying. He pleaded with them to transfer money at the earliest. Police said that the person at the other end was not the couple’s son. Rakesh Kumar Arya, commissioner, Faridabad Police, said that the suspects probably used a voice cloning technique to fool the couple.
“Fraudsters are using voice cloning techniques to trick people and are creating fake voice in seconds using three-four seconds of audio input,” said Arya.
Police suspect that the accused probably had access to the couple’s son’s social media accounts, where a harmless video would have told them what he sounds like.
The father said, “Our son did not say anything else but we believed it was him because of the voice. Apart from that, the suspects made video calls with a police station backdrop, which made us believe them. I do not recall the colour of their uniform but I read ’USA police’ and a logo on their uniform and in the backdrop. They were clean-shaven men, who looked Indian but they had an accent. Their English was videshi.”
He added that the caller claimed that his son’s mobile phone, passport, and car had been seized by the police, and delay in paying the bribe could lead to serious consequences. “I did not engage in any other conversation with them, and used four bank accounts to transfer money over seven transactions in three days. When we visited the bank, the suspects were connected on a call with us,” said the father.
The matter only came to light on December 17, when their son called them to enquire about their well-being. “We had tried calling him in those three days but he didn’t return our calls, so we assumed that he was in police custody, and without a phone.
Police said that investigation reveals that it was sheer coincidence that their son did not take their calls for three days — which had happened a few times in the past too. “The son has no role to play in this as the scamsters are based in India. The money trail did not lead to any account connected to one in the US. The son has been supportive of his parents,” said the SHO.
Meanwhile, the couple said that they have lost their life’s savings. “We had saved all that money to help us in old age and with our health issues. Now it’s gone. When our son found out, he was a little angry with us, but he is also very worried about us,” said the father.