Forgery syndicates are active on social media and laying traps with the aid of vulnerable people across the country. Even students of Rajshahi University (RU) are often caught in their net. Members of syndicates often say to unsuspecting people that consignment boxes have arrived from foreign countries or a lottery has been won. They also seek help for orphan trusts or pose as Bkash agents.
Monirul Islam Nayeem, a student of Islamic history and culture at RU, received an email from Rand Merchant Bank, South Africa, saying he has won a lottery. The file attached had the signature of Richard J Hischer, director of that bank. Nayeem was also told that Capital Finance International, London, has selected him as the lottery winner for a sum of €1 million. The so-called bank instructed the student that he would have to open an account with it by paying € 1,000 to be able to get the lottery money.
Rashedul Islam Rajon, a fourth-year student of the Urdu department, was sent a social media Facebook friend request on March 2 by Sgt Moran Elvis along with an email address. Morgan Elvis introduced herself as a US soldier working on a project in Afghanistan. In the mail, she said she would send a consignment box to Rajon on April 16 with USD 1.5 billion for helping orphans in Bangladesh. She even instructed him about how the amount would have to be spent. Around 11 am on April 16, Rajon got a call from 01647-662347.
The caller said she was Nila Chawdhury, a customs officer at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. She informed Rajon that a consignment parcel reached the airport from Afghanistan.
However, she asked him to pay Tk. 85,000 as a customs charges to receive the consignment. She also sent an account number named "A-Z Quality Farm Product" of Dutch Bangla Bank Limited"s Moulvibazar branch (agent banking-701708560946).
“I told Nila that I wanted to receive the box at the airport. But she kept telling me that there was no need to do so. Simply sending the money to the bank account would do. She called me around twenty times for the money. They also wanted to trap a few of my friends in a planned way. When I realised what was going on, I informed the police station about the matter. However, no one has been arrested till now,” said Rajon.
When this correspondent called at the number given to Rajon, a woman introduced herself as Nila Chawdhury, a customs officer at the HazratShahjalal International Airport, Dhaka. She said
had been working at the airport for the past five years. The moment this correspondent introduced himself as a journalist, she disconnected the call and switched off the mobile. Her phone remained switched off till the filing of this report.
Like Nayeem and Rajon, many other students on the RU campus and locals are being approached by fraudsters. Around 10–12 people of Rajshahi have filed complaints with the Motihar police station regarding such crimes, especially by people posing as Bkash agents.
Citing Section 22 of the Digital Security Act, Dr Hasibul Alam Prodhan, a professor of the RU law department, said: “If any person commits forgery by means of any digital or electronic medium, then that activity of that particular person will be an offence under Act (2). If any person commits any offence mentioned within Sub-section (1), the person will be penalised with imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or with a fine not exceeding Tk. 5 lakh, or both. If any person commits the offence mentioned in Sub-section 1 for the second time or recurrently commits it, he will be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or with a fine not exceeding Tk. 10 lakh, or both.”
He also said Section 23 of the Act states that if any person commits fraud by means of any digital or electronic medium, then that activity of that particular person will be an offence under Act (2). If any person commits any offence mentioned within Sub-section (1), the person will be penalised with imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or with a fine not exceeding Tk. 5 lakh, or both. If any person commits the offence mentioned in Sub-section (1) for the second time or recurrently, he will be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or with a fine not exceeding Tk. 10 lakh, or both.”
But teachers and students are not aware of these provisions, he added.
The public relations officer of the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Shakil Meraj, said: “We don"t know anyone named Nila Chowdhury. We will take action after investigating the matter.”
Athela Chawdhury, deputy superintendent of Customs at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said: “Like Nila, many forgery groups are active in the country.
We have no post named customs officer. We are now informing the matter to law enforcers to take action.”
Mahbub Alam, investigating officer of Motihar police station in Rajshahi, said: “Recently, a hacker called me from the same official number introducing himself as the DIG and asked me about someone who is a resident of Rajshahi. When I transferred the call to a constable, the hacker told him that he would help him to upgrade the account and to type something. When I realised the matter, I took the phone and questioned the caller. But he had hung up by then. A sub-inspector has fallen in the trap and lost Tk. 20,000. Cyber-crimes are increasing due to the use of new technology and systems. We are trying our best to bring the criminals to justice.”