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KOCHI: Fraudsters are devising new means to dupe people. In the latest such incident, a 40-year-old Kochi woman was cheated of Rs 5.3 lakh when a racket convinced her to part with the money for customs clearance to receive a gift from a US national who had evinced interest in marrying her. 

The police’s cyber-crime wing, which has launched a probe based on a complaint lodged by the Vyttila resident, suspects that an international racket is behind the fraud as the phone numbers used to call the victim were from Canada and some Latin American countries. “We suspect it is either a Nigerian or Russian racket with links in India,” said an officer. 

The con operation began in April this year with a person identified as Harsh Steve contacting the woman over phone after seeing her profile in a Kerala matrimony site. The caller introduced himself as a businessman based in New York and a frequent traveller to Dubai. 

He evinced interest in marrying her and the two kept communicating with each other for quite some time. The woman used to receive calls from two numbers — 0015162593206 and 0017189628667. 

The real trap was set when the woman received a call from a girl identified as Priya claiming that she was from customs clearance wing in Delhi and that a gift consignment addressed to her from Steve had arrived there. Further, Priya told the woman that she needed to pay a fee as customs clearance, parcel charge and currency approval charge to get the consignment released and forwarded to her Kerala address.

The real trap was set when the woman received a call from a girl identified as Priya claiming that she was from customs clearance wing in Delhi and that a gift consignment addressed to her from Steve had arrived there. Further, Priya told the woman that she needed to pay a fee as customs clearance, parcel charge and currency approval charge to get the consignment released and forwarded to her Kerala address.

The police said the woman believed it and transferred the amount, as directed by the caller, to an SBI account in New Delhi in the name of Rajib Mandal between April 21 and April 22. The amount was transferred by the victim from her SBI and ICICI bank accounts in Kochi.

The police are trying to track the details of the person who used the SBI account in New Delhi to receiving the money, the officer added.

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