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Doc’s email ID used to dupe travel agent of lakhs

A bariatric surgeon at a south Calcutta hospital realised recently that someone had hacked into his email ID and was using it to run a racket that duped people with false claims of personal loans.

The doctor, B. Ramana, reacted on time and reported the crime to the police before his name could be implicated in it. The perpetrators are still at large.

The city police said cases of email hacking are on the rise, with the hackers often using personal details of the victims as a shield against them.

“Had the doctor not reported the matter, he could have unwittingly been involved in the racket. It is important for people to keep track of their e-mail accounts and report irregularities if there are any. Otherwise they can even land in custody,” said an officer.

Sources said Calcutta police have been receiving complaints of corporate mail IDs being hacked or spoofed to gather data about a company’s client base or at times even to divert payment to the racketeers’ accounts.

In Ramana’s case, the racketeers were apparently using his email ID to transfer documents that, if caught, could have been used as evidence against the surgeon.

The matter came to light recently when the doctor received a mail accusing him of cheating.

“I have been receiving hundreds of mails with attachments, mostly documents related to loans. I ignored them presuming that someone had accidentally published my email ID in an advertisement. But recently I got a two-line mail accusing me of cheating. I realised that someone was playing foul using my email address and decided to report the matter to the police,” Ramana told Metro.

In the meantime, officers of Patuli police station received a complaint of cheating from a travel agent.

Complainant Saibal Bhattacharya, a resident of Baghajatin, alleged that he had been duped of Rs 1.3 lakh by someone he had contacted for a loan of Rs 25 lakh after seeing a newspaper advertisement.

“When I called the phone number mentioned in the advertisement, I was told to send personal details and scanned copies of some key documents to an email ID,” Bhattacharya told Metro. The email ID later turned out to be Ramana’s.

“The man, who claimed to have connections with a bank in the Dalhousie area, called me back after he received the documents. He read out my details over the phone, checking from the documents I had scanned and mailed to him,” Bhattacharya added.

After the “verification” the travel agent paid the first instalment of Rs 2,400, which he was told was needed before the loan was sanctioned. “I transferred the money to an Axis Bank account as asked by the man. Then I sent a scanned copy of the receipt to the same email ID where I had sent the documents,” Bhattacharya said.

The racketeers coaxed Bhattacharya into paying Rs 1.3 lakh in instalments to ensure that his Rs 25 lakh loan was sanctioned. He transferred the money to accounts in three banks in the airport area, Hazra and Howrah.

Sleuths believe it was a ploy to access documents through an email ID that belonged to a person not linked with the racket. Bhattacharya had received calls from three numbers.

“Emails leave imprints but procuring SIM cards with a fictitious identity has become easy these days. Apparently, the racketeers had thought that even if their crime was detected, police would track the emails to the doctor and they would go unscathed,” said an officer.