Bengaluru: The 29-year-old Praveen Babu (name changed on request), a Fedex sorting agent at the Kempegowda International Airport, was over the moon when he was “selected” for a lucrative job in Perth, Australia. He paid up nearly Rs 28 lakh over the next three months, only to realise that he had been duped by a professional group of conmen. He is now without a job and also the hard earned savings of his entire family.
What made Praveen fall for the bluff was the seemingly genuine letterheads and logos of the Australian High Commission that were used by the criminal gang while communicating with him through email. Praveen, who returned from New Delhi after being told at the Australian High Commission that none of the conmen had worked with them ever, lodged a complaint with the Cyber Crime Police in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
On April 17 this year, Praveen received an email from one Dr Elias Jalon of Perth, stating that he had been selected for the post of ‘Operations Officer’ with effect from May 20, 2015. There was a sponsor letter along with a consent form and Praveen was instructed to contact Mrs Victoria Assange at the Australian Immigration Services for further procedure. Praveen, father of two children, resigned his present job and prepared to fly to Australia after getting in touch over phone with Mrs Assange.
Praveen believed that Mrs Assange was a genuine official of the consulate as she had the perfect Aussie accent and a polite manner of speaking associated with consulate officials. Over the next few days, request for money started coming in. The conmen first asked Praveen for a registration fee of Rs 23,950, then Rs 80,900 for insurance (which they told him would be refunded once he arrived in Perth), Rs 65,100 for IELTS, Rs 1,87,600 for funds declaration and Rs 3,01,840 for process of travel documents. Praveen diligently paid all the amounts to seven bank accounts of seven different people as instructed by Mrs Assange.
On June 8, Mrs Assange called Praveen and said his visa had been kept on hold as the certificate of anti-terrorism was missing for which he had to pay Rs 2,80,490. On June 15, the supposed “clearance certificate” was issued. Again, the ‘polite’ requests for money started from June 17. She again asked Praveen to pay Rs 1,30,000 for medical purpose, and Rs 2,60,900 for drug test certificate, Rs 86,100 for legal purpose, Rs 2,44,000 for skill management certificate, Rs 79,000 for gate pass and basic travel allowance (BTA) of Rs 3,18,000 after which he was asked to go to Australian Embassy office for an appointment.
On June 27, Praveen arrived in New Delhi with the gate pass and the “appointment” to meet the Australian Embassy officials. “When I reached the office, nobody was around and I called Mrs Assange. She told me that it was an emergency leave and gave an appointment for Monday,” Praveen stated in his complaint to the cyber police. In the mean time, she again requested Praveen to deposit Rs 3,84,000 for incidental charges, and Praveen promptly paid up.
Only when Praveen enquired with the Enquiry Counter of the Australian High Commission in New Delhi on June 29 he realised that he had been conned by the gang.
When Praveen showed the consulate officials the email communications between him and Mrs Assange which had consulate letterheads and logos, they told him that somebody had hacked into their website and stolen their letterheads and logos. A shattered Praveen is back in Bengaluru. He has not only lost his job, but also his entire savings....