Someone sending you 'free gifts'? Make sure to check with cops

New Delhi: Customs officials are now having to increasingly deal with calls from confused citizens about their parcels lying with them for days or repeated requests about releasing their "free gifts" from Customs. These "free gifts" are now turning out to be a menace for the Customs department, more so during the ongoing pandemic.

Over 100 cases were reported in three months (April-June) where people were duped on the pretext of getting "free gifts" from abroad from their social media friends. The Customs has now also alerted Delhi Police about the menace and said that some of these fraudsters are using names of ministers and senior Customs officials.

"It's an old trick but from April to June we saw a surge in these crimes where people were cheated of their money on the pretext of phones, watches and other costly items. These fraudsters target middle-aged people through social media. They first become a friend and after a few days these thugs tell their targets that they will be sending things from abroad for which they have to pay money to clear Customs duty," an official said.

According to an official, these fraudsters also sent them fake receipts of Indian customs and photos of a parcel claiming that they have sent the items. "Many people reach out to our office claiming that their parcels are lying. These fraudsters take money in thousands at a time so that their targets do not become suspicious and easily pay the money," the official added.

Meanwhile, a complaint sent by Customs officials to the Delhi Police reads, "In some cases, it has been noticed that the fraudsters are misusing the name of Finance Minister and Chief Commissioner of Customs (Delhi Zone) by issuing letters to their names. In this regard a detailed public notice dated November 15, 2019, has already been issued wherein the public is alerted and advised not to pay any amount in the name of Customs to any person or to any private account if anybody demands such payments claiming to be the officer of Customs."

The complaint further read, "It is informed that online fraud is going on in the name of Chief Commissioner of Customs and other Customs officers. Every day several phone calls are being received at Customs office that the Customs officers are asking money to clear

the parcel."

One of the fake certificates of Insurance sent to a target read, "This is to certify the Indian Customs Authority has entered into insurance bond of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for you with the sum ten thousand UK pound which is equivalent to Rs 9.56 lakh which is awaiting transfer to your nominated bank account in your country through the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Please be informed that you have to make payment to the insurance department for the crediting, withdrawing fees which will cost you the sum of Rs 49.080 only before the amount will be transferred to your bank account."

An official from Customs said that this type of fraud increased during COVID-19 as smuggling has been hit, unemployment is high and most importantly, sending "gifts" is the most effective trick for criminals to dupe people. "Various government officials have also been duped," the official added.

Chief Commissioner Delhi Customs zone, Alok Tewari said that "People should remain aware of such fraudsters and verify any demands made in the name of Indian Customs from details of officers provided on Delhi Customs Zone website. Also, the Document Identification Number (DIN) verification facility provided on the CBIC website should be used to differentiate between genuine communication and fraudulent ones."

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