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Scam alert! Fraudulent phone calls target Indian citizens in Germany

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

A telephone number of the Indian embassy in Berlin - +4930257950 - is being used to dupe and harass many Indians in Germany for the past one-and-a-half years. Officials say it is a case of 'spoofing', where internet calling technology (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is used to mask the real identity or the origins of the call.

The modus operandi

The scam runs like this: the caller, who will identify himself/herself as an employee of the embassy, calls an Indian in Germany and tells them that their documents are incomplete and that they could be deported lest they pay up a certain sum through Western Union. He also says that they'll get a black mark on their passports, making any future travel difficult.

Several have fallen for the scam as the caller would possess some personal information.

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Kiran Telukunta, a PhD student, and his wife, have written a blog about how they were taken for a ride. Telukunta says the caller identified himself as Alex Johnson and spoke in a heavy accented English.

The callers demand anything between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000

When the caller spoke to Telukunta's wife, he knew her date of birth, which he claimed that she had not stated correctly on her immigration form - which endangered her stay in Germany as the sensitive German government could deport her due to heightened terror activities.

The couple was then asked to pay money through Western Union. While the first transaction was successful, they were lucky enough to get suspicious and read about similar cases on the internet before the second transaction could go through and managed to cancel it in time.

Others who have reported their ordeal say that some callers identify themselves as Indians and employees of the embassy, and speak in Hindi. The callers demand anything between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000 to sort out the purported issue as fee for the lawyers.

Sensitive information

It is not clear how these fraudsters got hold of the personal information of the victims despite the fact that sources in the Indian embassy in Berlin say that there multiple complaints have made to the investigating agencies.

Some posts on the internet by people who have got such calls say they may have gotten a hold of the information through social media. Telukunta writes that the caller may have had access to their immigration forms. It is also not clear how they get hold of the telephone numbers of the Indian nationals.

One victim claims that the money was finally withdrawn in India - in Siwan in Bihar, in one case

The scammers seem to have access to some database that has personal details of the Indian citizens. In one case, they even had information about the dates of travel of one of the victims.

One victim, in a comment on a blog post, claims that the money transferred from Germany was finally withdrawn in India, in moffussil towns like Siwan in Bihar, in one case.

Fraud warning

The embassy's number, meanwhile, is not the only one that is being used to make these calls. The telephone numbers of the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees, and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, too, are being used to target victims.

The officials of the Indian embassy in Berlin, meanwhile, were not ready to comment on the issue and said that the embassy has already issued multiple statements.

But even though the Indian Embassy and other consulates have come up with multiple advisories warning of this fraud, the calls continue.

The advisory posted on the Embassy's Facebook page, which has a testimonial of a victim attached to it, says: "The callers have earlier spoofed phone numbers of the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees and Embassy of India, Berlin. Forewarned is forearmed. Please spread awareness amongst your families and friends and do not fall prey to such calls."

Due to a sustained campaign to spread awareness about this fraud, not many are falling for the fraud

imilar cases have been reported from Kuwait, France, Australia et al., leading to advisories from the embassies to not fall for any such claim. Earlier, this month, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, too, tweeted how Indian students were receiving these phone calls and should not fall prey.

The sources in the embassy in Berlin say that the information on such calls is periodically collated and handed over to the police, and that not many are falling prey to the scam due to a sustained campaign to spread awareness about this fraud. Most ignore such calls and report it to the police, something which can be corroborated from the Facebook page where several people have written how they knew in advance and informed the embassy and the police.

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First published: 29 September 2016, 12:29 IST
 
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