How I Scammed Those Indian Scammers

Photo by Zlaťáky.cz on Unsplash

It all began that late afternoon. I sat alone at that Sikh-family-owned restaurant I used to go to during my sojourn in Pushkar, one of India’s holiest cities, sipping a cup of coffee and waiting for my dinner.

Then I noticed a group of four men exiting a new Toyota Corolla car they had just parked across the street and heading straight towards my table in a strongly purposeful manner. Everything about their bearing betrayed them as being scammers. However, their conduct was suggestive of professionalism. So they inflamed my curiosity and I decided to play their game in a bid to examine them.

The scammers’ team

All four were civil and well-dressed, wearing expensive-looking watches, golden rings, and bracelets. They were introduced to me as Kabir, Vir, Nikesh, and Kaju, in what I perceived to be a collection of common Indian names used as aliases.

Kabir was the party’s muscle; the big guy. Under his elegant outfit and the veil of benignity that covered his face, you could discern a man specializing in bullying and oppressing. He barely uttered a word at all. I doubt whether he understood any English, either. He sat quiet and serious, pretending to be paying attention to what was said, waiting to play his part at some later stage of the scamming operation, and in readiness to intervene in a possible, physical-action-requiring urgency.

Vir was an apprentice; a young, beardless boy, hardly twenty years old. His English was good, and he was eager to talk with me, testing his persuasive and thought-manipulating skills, indispensable for his future career as a scammer. However, he still was but an unconcentrated amateur; an easy target to be himself manipulated and fall into mistakes. As I went about narrating random, crazy, adventurous stories, while the others were anxious to return to their subject quickly, he seemed to completely forget about their business and listened on absorbedly. He was the only genuinely gentle person in the group and must have been recruited in unfortunate circumstances. I doubted whether he’d be successful in his life if he didn’t change his profession.

Nikesh was the head; the good old experienced scammer; about 45 years old, wearing the most expensive-looking watch and the greatest number of rings on his fingers. He could understand and speak perfect English, though his words were counted. For the most part, he sat silently in a stately pose, judging all that was said circumspectly, breaking in only at sparse intervals.

Kaju was the one I mostly had the conversation with; the team’s spokesman. His English skills were exquisite and his eloquence torrential. He was working on gradually extracting all the information they’d need from me, constructing sneaky wordings for his questions and bringing them forth in elaborate, unsuspicious manners, while his answers to all my questions lay right underneath his tongue.

Our first talk

During this first, introductory meeting, our talk was mainly focused on two interweaving topics:

1) Presenting themselves as successful businessmen and trustworthy men:

They claimed to be from Gujarat. They worked for a grand multinational company, of whose activities they gave me yet no account, but took pleasure in frequently using the word “company” pronounced with great pomposity.

They were often sent on business trips to various European and Asian countries, as well as throughout India. They currently were in Pushkar on such a trip. The company, they bragged, was paying INR 8.800 ($115) per night for each one’s room — Here I think they overexaggerated; I was paying $2 and I’m not sure whether any lodging costing more than $30–40 was available in the city.

In a few days, they were bound to continue their trip to Himachal Pradesh. They told me that right after I made them aware of my next destination being exactly there. They generously offered to give me a free ride.

And 2) extracting information from me:

Where am I from… What do I do in India… What’s my work… Whether I travel alone… How long have I and will be in India… Whether I use a travel guide (thus being informed about common scams)… And so on…

As my intention was to play the game, I premeditatedly gave them the exact answers they wanted to hear: I just arrived in India two days ago for the first time… I never use travel guides when I travel… I have an online job making really good money… while trying my best to appear friendly and naive. The game was on!

The jewelry scam

That evening, we exchanged numbers and agreed to have lunch together tomorrow…

At midday, I met them all again in the same place. I was thinking we were going to eat there. But they suggested I rather join them in the car to go someplace outside of the town. They obviously wanted to be in a quieter place, so to talk about whatever they had in mind freely and be in the position to flee unobstructed in case something went wrong. We drove a few miles and stopped at a remote and empty garden restaurant by the side of the main road.

Soon, they began explaining the particulars of their alleged company. It was presented as a giant in the jewelry trade industry, exporting huge quantities of pricey jewels from India and employing thousands of people worldwide.

And then, of course, came the business proposal. I could — lucky me — become one of their associates, helping them to export jewelry to Europe by evading taxes and making quite a fortune for myself in the process.

During the following negotiations, I tried to keep a good balance between not making it excessively easy for them — which would give rise to suspicions — and not making it too hard, either.

I asked them, for example, how I, in particular, could help them with tax evasion. They said that foreigners are allowed to post tax-free an amount of jewels up to a certain limit once every some period… Overall, their explanations were quite idiotic, but I yielded to it all — Was I to press too much, they would surely lose every sense of coherence, and the game would be over.

So we soon had an agreement… We’d leave together early the next morning for New Delhi and go to the post office. I wouldn’t need to pay anything at all myself, but only post a parcel to Sweden. After, they would bring me to a deluxe hotel room paid for by the company, where I’d have to wait until the parcel is delivered. And that was it. Then I’d get my hefty commission for the service, and I may go have fun.

Lastly — they almost forgot — they also said that the amount of jewelry I will be allowed to send will depend on the amount of money I have in my bank account. They justified this absurdity by claiming that, in case of custom control, I must be able to prove that I have paid for the jewelry myself, and I will do so by disclosing my bank account’s balance.

In reality, they needed to know that so to be precise on the sum of money they would try to force me giving them thereafter. I judged €50.000 to be a highly enticing yet unsuspiciously moderate bait. Their eyes twinkled.

What I didn’t yet know was in what exact way they aspired to make me give that money. That I learned soon after I left them that day. It turned out to be a very common scam. An “Indian jewelry scam” google search made me aware of it. Among many others, this story of a traveler who sadly fell for it was very illustrative.

The main idea is this: Soon after the postage, I would receive a call, supposedly from the police. The voice would try to convince me that I am accused of smuggling, and if I don’t fancy ending up in an Indian slammer, I would have to pay a fine — coincidentally equal to the amount of money I have in my bank account. My partners would then attempt to keep me trapped in that hotel room and, by either persuasion or intimidation, make me pay.

And how it went on…

The hour we had set our appointment to leave for New Delhi was a very early one. So I was rather busy in my bed attending the last episodes of that night’s dreams. When I finally woke up, I had more than ten missed calls from them.

I called them back right away to hear:

“What the hell man! Where are you? Why didn’t you show up? And why don’t you answer the phone?

And I was like:

“I am so sorry, guys! I feel so embarrassed about it. You will not believe what happened. Let’s meet for lunch and I’ll explain everything.”

And so I did:

“Look, man, I really do count on our partnership. You offered me a rare opportunity and I am so grateful for it. I really do believe that we, together, are going to do big business in the future. But first and foremost, I do regard you guys as my friends. So I’ll be honest with you. You see, the money I told you yesterday I have in my bank account… I don’t have it.

“That I just found out this very morning. My boss was supposed to pay me that 50.000 he owes me three days ago. He’s a credible man. I have worked for him for many years. He had never let me down before. I was sure the money was already deposited when we talked yesterday. But then, when I was just about to come to meet you today, I checked my account… and it was empty! So I’m basically broke for time being.

“But don’t you worry! I called him right off. He apologized and explained he’s having some technical issues with his payments software. The technicians are on it right now as we speak. He promised he will pay me after three days at the latest. And he sure will! I’m telling you, he’s a man of solid character.

“So, my friends, if I haven’t lost your trust irrevocably, and you can still think of me as a worthy partner of your company, let us just postpone the whole thing for a few days…”

They looked a bit skeptical, so I added:

“Also, another thing, I was yesterday talking with a friend of mine in Europe about our impending enterprise. And he told me that he’s also keenly interested to invest and could send me another 20–30.000 in a matter of days. We can buy more!”

And damn! They did fall for all that nonsense!

They said they “totally understand”, “these things happen”, and so on… We agreed to proceed with our business after three days as normal. And they also offered, in an act presented as one of magnanimity, to help me out these days with my economic difficulties.

For the next three days, I was meeting them twice a day for lunch and dinner. They took me to some very nice restaurants, where I had generous meals and drinks without sparing a dime.

On top of that, on the first day, they offered to lend me some cash for my expenses. I reacted to it like: “No, guys, please. You have already done so much for me. I really cannot accept that… Ok, if you insist so much.”

They also pressed me a great deal to leave my room in the town for a better one paid for by the company. But this I rejected categorically as: “I have already paid for it anyway — I’m already indebted enough to you — that would harm my pride…”

I could surely have made use of some free, more comfortable accommodation. But I wouldn’t like to have them mess around me the whole day and make it to any degree troublesome to get rid of them later. I was fine where I stayed; in the carless, crowded town center, where they couldn’t offer to drive me home, and I could easily make sure they don’t follow me after our meetings.

And how it all ended

Last evening before our supposed departure to New Delhi, half an hour before I meet them for our last dinner in Pushkar, I gave Kaju a call:

“Hey, man! I’m just calling to let you know that I won’t manage to meet you tonight. Some urgent work turned up and I’ll need to finish it tonight before we leave tomorrow.”

“Aha… But we are going tomorrow morning, right?”

“Yes, yes, of course we are. I just received my payment an hour ago. And I got a bonus for the delay as well!”

“Ok, that’s very good, my friend! Very good!”

“And that friend of mine I told you about… he has another 30.000 to invest. He will transfer me the money tomorrow morning, express. I will have it before we arrive in Delhi.”

“That’s also great my friend! Excellent!”

“But, you know, there is that one thing… Me, I know you… But my friend has never seen you before. So he is a bit reserved about it…”

“Oh, I see. But you will have his money in your account. That’s just in case of a custom control, remember? There is no money you’ll need to pay. You can assure him that everything is fine.”

“Yeah, yeah, I tried to. But he’s very incredulous, you know… He insists that I send him a link to your company’s website to take a look for himself.”

There was a pause.

“Your company is big. It must have a website, right?”

“Yes, yes, of course it has. We’ll send it to you.”

“Good. And I’ll send it to him… And he also asked me to send him a link to that relevant law you spoke about; the one about foreigners exporting jewelry tax-free.”

“What thing? I cannot find that.”

“How not? You said there is an Indian law stating so and so. There must be some resource or another where the Indian law is published, no?”

He started losing his calm…

“No! There is no Indian law!”

That was the highlight! “THERE IS NO INDIAN LAW” WTF?

“Ok, ok, leave that then. But he also asked for one last important thing. He wants to have a copy of your passports; each one of you. Just to be sure, you know.”

His temper rocketed to outer space…

“What are you talking about, my friend!? We cannot send you copies of our passports. How do we know what you are going to do with them? This is not serious. Tell to your friend: If he wants to trust us, good. If not, bad for him. We can do this alone, you and us, without him.”

“Yes, we sure could. But now that you speak like that, I become suspicious as well. I mean, why is it such a big deal to show us a copy of your passport? Like what do you think we could do with it? Your refusal makes me, too, lose my trust in you. I took you for reputable entrepreneurs. You aren’t by any chance some of those dirty scammers–”

Beep Beep Beep…

I didn’t hear from them again.

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Life-long nomad and visitor of nearly half of the world’s countries. Avid writer and author of 3 books. Also into photography and composing music.

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Dimitrios Fanourios Pischinas

Dimitrios Fanourios Pischinas

Life-long nomad and visitor of nearly half of the world’s countries. Avid writer and author of 3 books. Also into photography and composing music.

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