The Financial Express

Fraudster and impostors on the prowl  

Fraudster and impostors on the prowl   

A foreign bank credited to have been operating in this country for over a hundred years and buying out operation of several other foreign banks here has cautioned its customers to be on the guard against ATM (automated teller machine) defraudation. The message it circulates among its customers is, "Don't be a victim of ATM fraud" and "Don't let fraudsters cash in!". Then it cites a number of examples of how they are defrauded at ATM booth.

Some of the criminal practices resorted to by fraudsters fall within the ambit of cyber crimes but there are just other tricks they play upon the most unsuspecting types of customers. The cyber hacking the country's central bank was subjected to points to the capacity and reach of hackers bent on committing financial crimes.

Digitisation of administration, introduction of e-commerce or online monetary transaction have definitely speeded up and eased life but at the same time, lack of proficiency and care in handling gadgets or data at times can invite disaster to the life of an individual or even a nation.

True, even before the outbreak of Covid-19 fraudsters had been active in mind-boggling intrigues in order to cash in on grass-roots level people's simplicity. Prolific mushrooming of multi-level marketing (MLM) companies saw as many as 100 of them swindling 50 million small savers out of their savings. The scams surrounding Destiny, Unipay2u and Jubokarmasangsthan Society (Jubok) rocked the country so much that the government had to make stringent regulations for controlling such business. Yet gullible people still fall victim to such fraudsters' scheming and tricks. The latest heart-breaking news comes from Chuadanga where small savers lost their savings to a fake NGO.

Indeed fraudsters present many disguised faces to defraud people -gullible or not. From ATM fraudsters to e-mail encroachers to pretentious facebook friends to people like Shahed Karim and Ariful and Sabrina Chowdhury - the list is long indeed. So far as the art of impersonation and intrigues are concerned, Shahed have few matches. Behind the masquerading gentleman with a charitable mission lies a villain of uncanny shrewdness.

Foreigners - mostly from Nigeria -are also found to be involved in ATM fraud. A few of those gangs have been arrested. Another daredevil tactic is employed right in front of ATM booths where a microbus appears from nowhere and a beautiful young lady beckons one getting out of such a booth to know an address in the vicinity. When the person nears the microbus, a few strong hands grab him to drag on board. He is made to disclose pin number and not released until the fraudsters make a few more transactions later on.

Of late yet another ploy is used for cheating people. They are contacted over phone to inform that a foreign parcel has arrived to their address at the airport. Mostly gullible housewives fall in their traps and when they are made convinced by a series of calls made from airport, they are asked to pay the duty fee for release of the parcel. In this way they are made to pay a few times on the plea that it is a highly costly gift. It is too late when the victims realise their mistakes.

However, impersonation seems to be on the rise in an unlikely area during this corona epidemic. Muggers in disguise of law enforcement agencies have really posed a threat to people carrying cash of handsome amount or who are targeted after gathering information of their financial status. Muggers pose to be DB (detective branch) police or Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) team on duty and stop vehicles before snatching away money or other valuables. Confessions from 11 members of such a fake DB team arrested from different areas of Dhaka and Tongi the other day are chilling enough. They used to stop vehicles where road damaged by stagnated flood waters compel vehicles to move slowly and then guide those to an empty corner or side street in the name of a check of documents before mugging those in the vehicles. They operated all over the capital city.

In case of the operation of the fake RAB team, the ploy is even more daring. They stop the vehicle on the basis of prior information gathered and force their target person to get down. Then they take him to the waiting microbus before whisking away. Reportedly, they either take away everything from the person or hold him their hostage for ransom. Rapacious and cruel they do not hesitate to kill their hostages when their demands are unmet or otherwise feel threatened.

What is noticeable is that these impostors, like Shahed in the health sector, are engaged in crimes camouflaging their ugly side with a veneer of professions marked for dedicated service. In fact, it is a doubly despicable act of denigrating the professions they imitate for crimes.  

In the health sector that has long been a bastion of corruption and irregularities, more and more medical malpractices are getting exposed, courtesy of raids by mobile courts. Many of the reputed hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres have been fined for their errant behaviours and malpractices. A vast number has no licences or just did not bother to renew licences. Many of the diagnostic centres run without qualified doctors and technologists and they also issue false medical-test reports because they simply do not have facilities for such tests.

Why are people rushing to be rich overnight? The simple answer is that people of high society involved in big banking scandal, money laundering, corporate malfeasance and administrative corruption go away unpunished and thus set an abominable example. If one PK Halder can successfully embezzle Tk 35 billion (3,500 crore) and leave the country rather secretly, there is something awfully wrong on the financial front. However, this is not without link to the system of governance. There lies the problem of inducement for making quick buck.             


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