Pema (name changed) received a WhatsApp message from an Indian number saying she had won Nu 2.5 million in a lucky draw. The number was not on her contact list.
Suspicious of the number, Pema googled the name of the bank that was mentioned in the message and she found pictures of the bank and its manager. She was convinced. After she replied, the messenger asked for her picture. Pema received a message which contained a certificate that stated that she had won the lucky draw.
The certificate had a picture of Pema along with pictures of Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pema was convinced that she was a lucky person.
She video-called the messenger and the Indian showed her a desk with a pile of cash. He asked Pema to pay a fee of Nu 23,100 to claim the reward. Pema happily transferred the money.
Soon after the confirmation of the transfer, the messenger blocked Pema. Pema was scammed. The money that Pema paid in fees was transferred to a woman in Tsirang.
It would later come to light that the woman in Tsirang was a middleman who received a certain amount as commission.
This is one of the many cases the Royal Bhutan Police found when many Bhutanese fell prey to an online scam. The RBP has since apprehended the woman and froze the woman’s bank account. The victim did not receive compensation for the money which was transferred as a fee.
Police said that they received 10 cases pertaining to online scams so far. Most of the scammers, police said, are from India with middlemen in Bhutan working for them.
Most of the middlemen are between the ages of 20 and 30 and are mostly college dropouts and unemployed. The RBP has caught three individuals involved in the scams so far.
The RBP said that most of the scammers also target Bhutanese students studying in India.
The scammers use WhatsApp as a medium for messaging people about fake lucky draws and Telegram to invite people to invest in Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency.
Burglary cases increasing in Thimphu
Meanwhile, police officials said that burglary cases are increasing in Thimphu and urged residents to be alert and improve the security of their homes to prevent burglaries.
Police said that there are at least one or two cases of burglary or larceny reported every day. “Residents should improve the quality of security in their homes to deter possible burglaries,” said a police official.
An official from the RBP said that residents should install CCTV cameras and alarms on doors to prevent burglaries.
The official also urged residents to not keep highly valuable items and high amounts of cash at home without proper security. Police also urged residents to report any suspects to the police.