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‘The Man On The Matrimonial Site Turned Out To Be A Fraud. I’m Telling My Story To Save Others!’

Priya was the victim of a shocking matrimonial site fraud. In this brave interview, she tells us how the charming man she met online took her money & confidence.

Priya was the victim of a shocking matrimonial site fraud. In this brave interview, she tells us how the charming man she met online took her money & confidence.

In her late 30s and looking to get married, Priya (name changed), a successful HR professional from Hyderabad was duped in a matrimonial site fraud. The man who contacted her was a smooth-talker, charming and even showed her pics of his cute ‘daughter’. He knew the right things to say, and Priya, like many other women fell for this scam.

In this interview, she tells us her story. How the scam happened, how she lost her savings, her timely action in helping the police, and red flags that women should be alert about when they meet someone online or on a matrimonial site.

 

Thanks for sharing your story…So this began when you registered on a matrimonial site?

Yes, I was well-settled in my career and keen to get married. I casually registered on the site to see what happens. Immediately, two men got in touch with me on WhatsApp. Both were premium gold members, so they had access to my phone number. With the first one, I felt something was fishy, so I cut the conversation short.

The second guy spoke very well, was settled in London and worked as a consultant. He told me he lost his wife to cancer and that he’s a single father. When he showed me the pic of his 10-year-old daughter, my heart melted. We began to talk regularly…

He often spoke about his daughter. He checked to see if I have eaten or had enough rest. There was this sense of belongingness. I’m a very strong person who can see through things. But at that time, I was floating and in a very different zone.

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Did he ask you for any money upfront?

No, he said he wants to gift me a spectacle frame and asked for my address. Two days later I got a call from customs saying they have a parcel for me, and I would have to pay Rs. 35,000 tax to release it. I asked, why should I pay 35,000? I called the matrimonial guy. He said he didn’t know how things work in India. I was very busy at the time and just paid the amount.

What was in the parcel?

That’s the surprising part. I got a call from customs asking if I was aware that there was 50,000 pounds in the parcel. And I was like “what”?!

Then I got a call from a senior official called Peter Anderson. I requested him to return the money as this would be money laundering. He assured me that this person is a tax-payer and law-abiding citizen and they have  clearance from London. If the money is returned, then it would be tagged as illegal and could create complications. He told me if I pay tax of Rs. 2.5 lakhs, I would get a money laundering certificate.

I told the guy I am very upset with all this. He then sent me a photo of a ring and jewellery saying it’s picked by his daughter and mom for me. He then said he was planning to settle in India and the money would help him later.

I thought I will just put the money in some kind of account, and return it to him when he’s in India. So I paid the 2.5 lakhs tax.

Didn’t you feel the need to confirm with someone else?

Actually, I did confirm this. I spoke to my friend in London, and he said this is a common practice to transfer money. What is not common is people sending 50,000 pounds. But he said if the customs are issuing a certificate, there should be no issue.

But the matter did not get resolved obviously…?

Now I got a call after a few days, saying this money is  attracting GST of Rs. 8.5 lakh. I immediately called up the matrimonial guy and told him I am a single woman, this is my hard-earned money and I cannot pay. He requested me to arrange for the money. He promised to return every penny.

I paid the money, but still the issue wasn’t getting resolved. Today I wonder what happened to me at that time

Then he called and said he is in Dubai and coming to Mumbai to sort the mess out. At 6 am, he said he has been detained at the customs and needs immediate money. I spoke to the same customs officer and he confirmed this (this number was working till a few days ago). I got a bit worried and was wondering what to do.

When did you realize you had been duped?

I called up my brother who connected me to a senior customs officer who was a lady. She said customs cannot detain anyone for more than 24 hours like this.  Then she checked and said there is no one detained by that name. That’s when I realized I had been duped.

I lost around ten lakhs. More importantly, my confidence has gone for a toss. That is what I have to build again, which will be more difficult than building my savings. I fear opening up to strangers as they can say, ‘how stupid, how can somebody give that kind of money to a stranger? How do I explain that I don’t know what happened to me??’

Once you realized you were duped, you went to the cybercrime cell?

Yes, I felt ashamed. But then I thought, if I don’t take any action, who will? I even contacted the bank manager where his account was held. He empathized but was helpless. Then I approached the cybercrime cell who confirmed I had been the latest victim in a matrimonial site fraud.

What kind of women do these criminals target and what’s their method?

These people are masters of psychology. They play on the woman’s vulnerability who probably wishes to see herself married and is keen to meet interesting, well-settled men.

They know what women like me are looking for, so they present themselves as respectful and well-settled. They praise your independence and say they want to spoil you with gifts and jewellery. They are well-trained in how to make the woman feel special..

They do their research before zeroing in on their targets. It’s a big nexus apparently, a complete syndicate.

Has the police been helpful and any chance you can get your savings back?

Yes the cybercrime cell has been very supportive. They are constantly giving me updates and trying to freeze accounts. I could manage to get 1 lakh so far with the help of CC. For the rest of the money, it’s a possibility but I am not very hopeful. I am also helping the police, and they have asked me to continue talking to the man.

So you are still in touch with that man who cheated you?

Yes, I am fooling him to help the police. I want to expose this nexus so other women can be saved from this fraud. He still keeps asking me for money. I am giving him excuses.  I managed to get 5 accounts, which is linked to 12 accounts. I don’t want them to go off the radar, but then it becomes difficult for the police. They immediately withdraw the money and lead a very luxurious life and spend money on drugs etc.

 It’s a good thing you found out before things got worse…

Yes, in a way I was lucky. One day, all of a sudden, he asked me to send my sexy pictures. Thankfully, I was really tired after a workshop and I refused saying I am not comfortable. Otherwise, he would have started blackmailing me.

The police has confirmed that such cases happen and the woman often commits suicide. At times even women trap men on these sites, but that’s rare.

 What are the signs/red flags that women can be aware of when talking to men on dating or matrimonial sites?

I am telling my story so other women don’t have to suffer like me. I can definitely warn women to look out for these red flags.

  • These men have fake identities online, but they are NOT on social media. That’s the first red flag.
  • The second one is that they will never agree to do a video call with you or come only for a few seconds.
  • The third is a sob story where they will say they are depressed and have lost their wife to cancer or something.
  • Then the fourth one is when they start asking for money.
  • Fifth, check their accent. If you notice, you will see that their responses are quite scripted. But the sad part is you realizeall of it once the incident is done and dusted…
  • Sixth, they will encourage you to keep the relationship a secret for now.

Never ever share your account details with anyone they’ve met only recently. Also don’t share social media links like Instagram/ Facebook. That might lead to another set of crime where they can reach out to your contacts saying that you are in trouble. Or they could hack your account also. Don’t ever share any personal pictures of self as that can lead to blackmailing for money.

Stay strong, report the crime, don’t delete any information (keep a trail). These cases are rampant.

Image source: Bas Masseus/ Pexels

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About the Author

Sonia Chopra

Sonia Chopra is Senior Editor, Women's Web and has over 15 years of writing and editing experience. read more...

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