Investing? Watch out for frauds

Suman K Sharma
Prof Kamal Kant had every reason to feel contented. His highly qualified daughter and son were well settled in America. He, at 78, had himself not done badly in life. Having earned a doctorate in engineering on retiring from the hectic job of a chief engineer in a government department, he taught for a decade and half in a private engineering college before deciding to spend most of his time with his children in the US.
On a periodic visit to India, Kant was lounging about in his cosy home when a uniformed policeman rang his doorbell. The good professor had been summoned by the Economic Offences Wing. With much trepidation, he sat before the police officer at the EOW office. And there was a surprise for him. The police officer was unusually courteous, if not commiserating with him. After putting him at ease that he was not there for any offence, the EOW official asked him whether he had invested in an insurance policy in recent years. Prof Kant’s immediate reaction was that he had done no such thing.
Then, on a slight egging on by the official, he recalled the incident. In 2013, on relinquishing the teaching job, hewas given a big cheque by the institution towards his arrears of pay and gratuity.When he went to deposit the amount at his bank, an effusive clerk had sweet-talked him to put aside his usual caution and invest a sum of five lakh rupees in an attractive policy floated by the insurance company affiliated with the bank. Prof Kant had signed numerous forms which the clerk asked him to sign, wrote a cheque of 5 lakhs for internal transfer to the insurance company and returned home. A day later, he had received an e-mail from the insurance company that his policy was ‘being processed.’ Assured that he had wisely invested the money, he hadforgoten about the transaction in the course of time. It was only when the EOW officer told him of the FIR lodged by his insurance company about the fraud that Kant came face to face with the bitter truth: he was one among scores of investors who had been defrauded of crores of rupees.
Prof Kant hastened to his bank. He was informed that the garrulous clerk was no longer with them. He then rushed to the branch office of the insurance company. There, Imran Khan, the Operations Officer, puffed up with self-importance, made the elderly customer wait in his chamber for over three hours before condescending to give him a hearing. Kant was in for yet more surprises. Ostensibly, the insurance company had addressed him a letter way back in 2016, conveying that the proposal for his policy had not been taken up; and in consequence, a cheque of Rs 5 lakh was despatched by the company to his registered residential address. The letter affirmed, however, that the cheque had not been encashed and required Kant to present himself at the company office with identity papers for processing the refund.
This letter raised more questions than it answered. Why had it taken the insurance company three long years to decide whether or not to take up the proposal? Once the company had decided, though belatedly, to refund the one-time premium to Kant, why it did not do so by ‘internal transfer’ as had been done when Kant made the payment in 2013? What was the mode of mailing the cheque – was it through a courier or a registered post? Had the inland letter been actually mailed to Prof Kant?
Even so, there was still a silver lining in the murky business. The insurance company had acknowledged, though obliquely, that it owed the professorRs 5 lakh.
But that hope itself turned out to be the end of the road. The company official said that they had, ‘by mistake’ already made two payments – one of Rs 5 lakh and another of interest thereon to one ‘Kamal Kant’. But this Kamal Kant was fifty years younger (born 1991) to Prof Kamal Kant who was born in 1941. Shockingly, not only the address of the fraudulent beneficiary differed, but the bank to which the monies were transferred was also different. That was how the matter had reached EOW and would stay there indefinitely. The professor, thanks to his stature and economic well-being, does not seem so much perturbed over the money he has lost. What rankles him the most is the facileness with which he has been duped.
Next time when some smart clerk approaches you to invest your spare cash, do make sure that your hard earned money does not go the way Prof Kamal Kant’s 5 lakh rupees have gone.
(Names have been changed to conceal identity.)