July 5th, 2017
Lured into a trap on Facebook, one more victim has fallen prey to the Nigerian herbal seed fraud. A 61-year-old businessman, resident of Basaveshwaranagar, Bengaluru, has lost about Rs 24.7 lakh to the scamsters in the online herbal seed fraud.
Eight cases of such victims have already been reported in four months. Investigators say that the con men would lure gullible targets through social networking sites like Facebook.
On 2 June 2017, the Bengaluru businessman received a friend request from a lady named Vera Douglas who asserted herself as an executive of a London-based pharma major. He accepted the friend request, and both of them started chatting. During this time, Vera introduced him to the firm she apparently worked for and a product named Nkume herbal root seeds which she claimed was produced in India to manufacture medicines for the treatment of cancer, HIV and Tuberculosis.
The businessman told the cyber crime police department that the lady assured him of the rare availability of these seeds which were for Rs 2.5 lakh per 400 gm by pharma companies.
As reported by The Times of India, a similar incident occurred in July 2006. The victim came in contact with a woman named Victoria Cater on Facebook who lay a trap for him by claiming that she was a personal assistant to the director of the UK firm, Good Health Pharmaceutical Ltd. They start chatting on a regular basis until Cater made a lucrative offer to him.
In February 2017, a man from Meerut also lost Rs 3 lakh to a Nigerian gang. Similarly, one Agra-based doctor ended up losing Rs 50 lakh after falling into the trap of another Nigerian gang, reported Daily Mail.
An investigating officer said, “This businessman like other eight victims also fell into the trap of these scamsters. They drew off crores of rupees from citizens across India and over Rs 5 crore from Bangaloreans in the previous year. The victim decided to buy a packet of Nkume seeds from a woman seller, Sunitha, in Mumbai on behalf of his Facebook friend Vera”.
He further added, “The fraudsters played their roles well and posed as diplomats and MNC executives. In the businessman’s case, a woman named Sunita Singh in Mumbai sold him the cheap Nkume seeds collected from forests and packaged them in a way that they looked rare”.
The latest scam on the Bengaluru businessman started acquiring pace when the con woman visited his house.
The interaction between the businessman, Vera and her alleged friend, Sunitha were limited to the phone and the internet. Then on June 20, an African man who was a part of the fraudulent gang visited his house to inspect the seeds. After the victim received the African man from Bashyam Circle, he took the seed samples on the guise of sending them to the laboratory to ascertain their authenticity. The victim was asked to wait for the results, as they would be shared with the British High Commission in Delhi.
The businessman then transferred Rs 5.20 lakh in two instalments to a bank account provided by the fraudsters. On June 22, he received another ten packets of seeds via courier and again sent Rs 19.5 lakh to Sunitha.
The businessman was assured that the UK firm would buy the seeds for $8500 a packet and he would get 70% of the profit which was nearly $5000. He kept this matter a secret from his family until his daughter enlightened him about the fraud. He then lodged a complaint with the cybercrime wing of Bengaluru police on June 29, in hopes of recuperating the money he had lost so far.
He’s the 9th complainant from Bengaluru since March. “We are probing eight other cases and trying to zero in on the gang which operates from different cities and shares the loot through online banking,” said a cyber crime sleuth who stressed on the need for netizens to exercise caution.
The Logical Indian community requests the netizens of India to remain vigilant and not fall prey into such traps. We hope that all proper investigations are done to catch the culprits and bring them to justice.