An elderly couple in Salt Lake who were mostly staying indoors during the pandemic have been cheated of more than Rs 3 crore allegedly by a neighbour whose help they sought to withdraw money from the bank over the past two years.
Based on the complaint of Rabindranath Saha, the neighbour, Sougata Mishra, has been arrested and charged with cheating, forgery, fraud and criminal breach of trust, said Surya Pratap Yadav, deputy commissioner, headquarters, Bidhannagar police commissionerate.
The police said that like many elderly residents of Salt Lake, whose children stay outside Kolkata, Saha and his wife live by themselves and were forced to seek help from a ‘friendly neighbour’ who offered to do all his banking activities at a time when the coronavirus made it unsafe for senior citizens to step out of home.
“The elderly man finds it difficult to write and used to hand signed cheques to his neighbour. The neighbour would write only the amount to be withdrawn in front of the man. He would later put a couple of zeros at the end of the figure and write the amount in words,” said an officer.
What also prompts a large section of the elderly population to depend on others to get their basic banking work done are the new rules and systems meant to make the deposits more secure.
Over a period of two years, Mishra had allegedly been duping Saha by adding zeros to the amount the elderly man wanted to be withdrawn.
“Mishra stole Rs 3.41 crore from 10 bank accounts of the complainant,” the officer said.
The cheating came to the fore when Saha recently asked Mishra to return his bank passbooks and cheque books as he felt safe enough to step out and visit the bank himself because of the decreasing Covid numbers, the police said.
“Mishra was initially reluctant and then flatly refused to hand Saha the passbooks and cheque books. The elderly man finally visited the bank in January and found that he had been left poorer by more than Rs 3 crore. He lodged a complaint with Bidhannagar South police station against Mishra, his mother and son,” the officer said.
Mishra and his family then purportedly promised to return the entire money to Saha. Since he allegedly failed to do so, a case was started and he was arrested on Tuesday.
A senior officer urged elderly people to keep track of their finances either through their mobile phones or through passbooks.
• Share PIN with and hand chequebook, passbook and ATM card to only those you fully trust
• Even if someone you trust withdraws money for you with a signed cheque or an ATM card, ask for an updated balance
• If you hire someone for regular banking activities, click the person’s picture and tell him or her you are sending it to your relatives