Monday, June 14, 2021
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Frauds in the name of Customs Department

As a Customs Officer, I frequently get phone calls from people asking for help or to help someone who is in the process of receiving certain items from abroad- foreign currency, gold, jewellery or expensive electronic items- from some friend, someone they know, etc. My first question to them usually is who the person from abroad is. If the answer is “A friend I met online on Facebook”, I immediately know that it’s a fraud. My immediate concern next is whether any money has already been transferred to the fraudsters, because once sent, it usually is very difficult to get back any of the money.
Another way in which people often fall prey to such fraudsters is by responding to phone calls from people claiming to be Customs Officers asking for money to be deposited in bank accounts. This is a large fraud going on in the name of the Customs Department. Two Modus operandi have been noticed:
1. People you may have befriended through Facebook will say they are stuck in Customs with gold/ jewellery/ foreign currency and will make you speak with a “Customs Officer” who will then direct you to deposit money in some Private bank account to get your “friend” released.
2. People will call you saying your parcel has arrived in Customs and will ask you to make payments in some private bank accounts to get the parcel released.
One must be aware that the Customs Department will never ask you to deposit money in any personal bank account. It is always in government accounts which credit the money to the Government of India.
It’s worth keeping in mind that nothing comes for free. The fundamental issue here is one of gullibility- that a person believes that an anonymous person/ a complete stranger whom they have befriended on a social networking site actually wants to send them huge amounts of foreign currency/ gold/ jewellery for free. The price of such gullibility is costly. A fool and his money are soon parted. So beware!

Sashi Wapang
(The author is an IRS (Customs and GST) officer. The views expressed are personal views.)

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