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On - New Age Scamsters

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Living in Mumbai, we have all encountered different kinds of scams – credit card frauds, the lure of free gifts, random unheard of lottries won etc. People are very innovative with their ways of making money, and very often even the smartest of us fall for them and lose money because of sheer greed, foolishness, or even kindness!

A month or so ago as I finished class, I jumped into the first auto who agreed to ferry me back home. Barely had I settled in with all my paraphernalia and took a breath that the auto guy received a call and jumped with excitement. He was grinning from ear to ear, and seemed thrilled to bits. He announced proudly that he had become a dad after 13 years of marriage, and moreover, he was blessed with a son! I congratulated him, and he made a huge song and dance about it and said I was lucky for him because I had got into the auto and he got the good news. I nodded patiently as he went on and on about how he was condemned for not being able to have a child, his wife ostracized, so on and so forth.

Suddenly, just as I was reaching home, my ears perked up when he casually mentioned that the entire fertility treatment had cost about 60 thousand rupees, and he was only short of the last 2 and a half thousand. Being both skeptical and cynical (a bad combination), I immediately suspected that this was a ploy to extract some money with a well-constructed sob story. I also had a feeling that there was no new child born to him today, and who knows of the wife. I gave him 2 rupees more than the exact fare and a look and walked away, and from his reaction I could tell that he was totally stunned.

Narrating this at home to my husband, I felt a bit petty, and he made me feel worse – said it was very mean of me to have behaved like that, and that doing a bit of charity would not have made me a pauper. Self doubt crept in, but I soon forgot about it.

As luck would have it, about 2 weeks later, I encountered the same guy, at the same place, and it was like déjà vu! He got the call on his phone, and as he started talking, he caught my stare in the mirror and probably recognized me – because he shut up immediately. It was funny because he started repeating the same story, and literally stopped mid-sentence! I wanted to expose his lie, but was totally stunned and could barely think of what to do next.

I got home and this time narrated the tale to my daughter, who suddenly went red and looked totally shocked. As it turns out, she too had encountered this character, and being the gullible fool that she is, fell for his story and parted with 200 rupees in addition to the fare!

I first let my daughter have it, for being naïve and dumb, and then turned to my husband to give him a death stare. He wisely decided to be honest and admit that yes he was wrong, and no, he could not spot a lie from a mile (an opportunity I wanted to jump on, to say ‘I TOLD YOU SO’ about a million other things, but better sense prevailed and I let this pass.

After this, I got into action and made a long whatsapp message about this incident, which I then forwarded to all of my friends to warn them – and received a flood of messages in return. It turns out that a bunch of us in Powai had fallen for this guy’s story (a blatant con!), and showered him with money ranging from 2 to 2000 rupees! Another response came in the form of caution against a similar con man – another auto guy with a sob story about his son being hospitalized, and needing money for treatment etc. An alert traveler tried to verify this story, and surprise surprise, it also turned out to be an intricate story to earn some extra bucks.

So my dear friends, please be warned – these men still hang around Powai, so be extra cautious (and trap them, if you can!) It is a fine balance between being kind, and being a kind fool, so beware!