New Delhi: A 40-year-old freelance journalist has claimed a person "hypnotised" him over the phone and duped him of Rs 40,000, but police and experts said this is one of the "most normal kinds of cyber fraud" and not a case of hypnosis.
Ramesh Kumar Raja lodged an FIR with the Delhi Police on April 25 detailing the alleged crime.
"The caller pretended to be known to me and during the telephone conversation, he hypnotised me (diverted my mind and thought process) to get fraudulent transactions of Rs 40,000 in two phases of Rs 20,000 each from my bank account via Paytm UPI," Raja said.
He claimed that on March 7 he received a call from an unknown person who was polite and friendly.
"I told him that I didn't know who he was. Then he politely said, 'no no, please guess who I am. How can you forget me?' Since his voice resembled that of a friend of mine who is a doctor, I asked him if he was the one and he said, 'Yes, now you have recognised me correctly'," Raja told PTI.
He added, "That's how the conversation started and went on for some time. He spoke to me about several general things about health and family. He was so confident and congenial in talking that I didn't have an iota of doubt that I am unknown to him." Raja said that he felt as if he lost his reasoning power while talking to him and started following his instructions. Then the caller told Raja that his online payments app was not working and he had to pay money to someone.
So he wanted to deposit some money into Raja's account and offered to collect that amount in cash from his house in the evening.
"Though it was a strange offer, I still couldn't question him and say why he himself cannot withdraw money from any nearby ATM," Raja said.
He told Raja that first he would send him Rs 2 to check if his account is active. He sent a Paytm message and Raja opened the message after entering a PIN. Suddenly, he realised that he lost Rs 2 from his SBI account which was linked to his Paytm account.
"I told him that instead of getting money, I lost Rs 2. Then he apologised and said that it happened by mistake and sent another message on which I clicked and entered my pin. This time I received Rs 4," Raja recollected.
Then he sent another Paytm message saying that he was paying Raja Rs 20,000. But the moment Raja initiated the same process, he realised that Rs 20,000 was deducted from his account.
When Raja told him about it he again apologised and sent another message, on which Raja clicked and realised that Rs 20,000 debited from his account once again.
"Here, I got a little anxious and alerted. I told him that I lost Rs 40,000 to him so I am coming to collect the money. But he made some excuse and disconnected the call,” Raja said.
It took some time for Raja to realise that he was a victim of cyber fraud. He wrote to SBI, Paytm, and all financial authorities and got an FIR lodged with the North Delhi cyber police station. Raja feels that his mind was completely paralysed to question his own action.
However, a police officer dismissed Raja’s claim. "This is a most normal kind of cyber fraud. I have been receiving many such cases in which people get calls where the strangers first ask them to recognise and then dupe them after a friendly chat," the officer said.
Experts, who carry out hypnosis, say this kind of incident has no link with hypnosis.
Santhosh Babu, a practitioner and teacher of hypnosis for 30 years, says that Raja's story most probably has nothing to do with hypnosis.
"Hypnosis is a trancelike state of altered consciousness that resembles sleep. It is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject,” Babu said.
He added that it is a misconception among people that someone could hypnotise them against their will. "I cannot make a hypnotised person do something which he or she doesn't like to do. I carried out several hypnosis demonstrations in top institutions like IITs and IIMs in 1994 just to remove the misconceptions about hypnosis," he said.
Cyber experts say that it is a new sort of crime where criminals try to exploit the positivity and friendly nature of people.
"I think the more friendly and polite you are towards strangers, there are greater chances that you fall prey to this type of cybercrime. These fraudsters are conning gullible people by winning their trust and confidence," Prashant Gautam, Deputy Commissioner, Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO), Delhi Police, said.
"We advise common people to be watchful and alert against such unknown calls. Even if you feel that you want to help someone who calls you from some unknown number and poses to be known to you, at least you can cross-check the same before making any financial transaction," Gautam said.