The Kharghar police have busted a gang that ran a fake call centre in Kolkata and duped about 310 people across the country by offering them dating services.
The police raided the call centre, arrested the trio and recovered 41 mobile phones and two laptops on December 4. The accused have been identified as Sneha alias Mahi Ravi Das (25), Prabeer Santosh Saha (35) and Anarban Singh alias Neel Roy (26), all residents of West Bengal. The accused have been remanded in police custody till Friday.
The police said the accused called people, offered them speed dating packages and charged them different rates for registering their membership on the dating site, drawing up the agreement, issuing identity cards and cancelling the membership. According to the police, at least 30 residents of Maharashtra had fallen prey to the fraud and the accused sent them fake agreement papers and identity cards to keep them invested.
Mahesh Patil, police inspector (crime), Kharghar police station, said, “The accused claimed to provide the services of call girls at a time and place of the customer’s choice. They would then extract as much money as possible from the customer. When a customer demanded a refund, they would ask him to pay an additional ?10,000 to claim a partial refund. The accused charged different rates for the packages depending on the interest shown by the customer during their conversation.”
The fraud came to light after a 65-year-old resident of Kharghar filed a complaint with the police that he had been cheated of ?73.5 lakh between September 15, 2018 and January 26, 2019. The police said Sneha, a transgender person, contacted the complainant and offered him the membership of Locanto Dating Services and Speed Dating. “When the complainant demanded cancellation of his membership as the site failed to provide any service, Sneha threatened to lodge a police complaint against him for demanding call girls. The accused then sent him fake legal notices and extorted money,” senior police inspector Pradeep Tidar said.
Book with names found
Acting on the complaint, the Kharghar police found that the mobile numbers of all the accused were based in the same location and traced them to Kolkata. Mr. Patil said, “During the raid, we found that the accused did not maintain proper records of the number of people they had cheated or the money extorted from them. From a book with a few names and amounts scribbled in it, we have learnt that in the past three months the accused cheated people of at least ?62 lakh. They used to withdraw the money deposited by the victims immediately and transfer most of it using UPI and Paytm. We are yet to trace the accounts to which the money was transferred.”
The Kharghar police are also on the lookout for three more accused who they suspect were behind making the fake agreements and legal notices, providing the contact details of victims, opening bank accounts and securing SIM cards.
When the police dialled the numbers scribbled in the book, they found that most victims were ashamed to file a complaint. A similar fraud case registered with the Nerul police in September this year is being probed to find links with the busted gang. “No person should fall prey to such offers on dating sites and if they have, they should not hesitate in approaching the police,” Mr. Tidar said.