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Beware of fake officials

Guwahati, March 13: Fraudsters posing as customs officials are duping people of large sums of money in the Northeast, deputy commissioner of customs (Guwahati division) Temsunaro Jamir said here today.

“Such cases are frequently being reported from places like Guwahati, Shillong, Kohima and Dimapur. These criminals have a countrywide network and have penetrated the subscriber database of telecom companies. They have also found ways of evading checks and precautions taken by banks,” she said.

More than 100 such cases have been reported from across the Northeast in the past year.

The usual modus operandi of these criminals is to contact the victims over the phone or through email and tell them that they have won a lottery or have been selected to win a prize from abroad.

The calls are generally made from mobile phones. The victim is then asked to deposit a certain amount of money as customs duty to receive the money or gift.

“The target is asked to deposit the customs duty in a bank account,” Jamir said. These bank accounts are opened under fictitious names.

“These people are experts in convincing people. They generally provide a deadline to submit the money and usually display a sense of urgency. They ask the target not to delay the payment, as that might result in forfeiture of the parcel,” Jamir said.

“Neither the customs department, nor any of its officers make any unsolicited calls to anybody to deposit customs duty. Customs duty is always deposited in a government account and can be deposited only at designated banks. People are cautioned and advised to desist from making any such payments in the name of customs duty,” she added.

“It is also advised that whenever any such calls are received, the matter should immediately be reported to the local police station,” she added.

A source in the customs department said a majority of the fake accounts had been opened in State Bank of India branches. He said Nigerian scamsters could also be involved in these rackets.

Dimapur resident Iriechule Zeliang was told to deposit Rs 18,999 into a bank account as customs registration for a parcel which had allegedly arrived in her name at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. She did so on February 28.

“When Zeliang was again asked to pay Rs 39,000, she grew suspicious and contacted the customs office at Dimapur. That’s when she discovered that she had been duped,” the source said.