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Buying a house or taking one on rent?

The dream for a home of one's own is fertile ground for frauds, it seems. One more ingenious housing loan fraud has come to light, this time involving a 57-year-old civil engineer. The name of a prominent bank has been used in the deception.

The victim, a resident of Basaveshwaran­agar, has filed a complaint with the Magadi Road police on April 12 stating that he was duped of Rs 5.84 lakh by a fraudulent company claiming to be a franchise of a popular private bank, which offered to give him a housing loan of Rs 1.5 crore.

The victim, who did not want to reveal his identity, told Bangalore Mirror that he was planning to apply for a home loan and on March 6, he received a message from Home Pay Solutions, a company which claimed to be a franchise of the said bank. (It is not clear how the agency got the engineer's number; he claims that he didn't apply for a loan but had only been thinking about it). He contacted the number mentioned in the message and spoke to a person who identified himself as Vishwanatha. He told him that he wanted to build a house at his site in Thanisandra. He then spoke to another manager called Madhu who said he would sanction a loan of Rs 1.5 cr at a rate of 8.5% interest.

The company then sent one of their employees to his residence to collect documents and cheque leaves. He said, "On April 4, the employee asked me to give him 12 blank cheques and later requested for three more as the loan amount was huge. I handed over 12 cheques of Corporation Bank under my name and three more under my wife’s name. He used the private bank’s seal on the cheques to assure us that the cheques won't be misused."

Last Wednesday, the victim said he received a message from his bank that Rs. 5,84,000 was deducted from his account and three account payee cheques were encashed. He immediately rushed to the bank and asked them to stop payment of the cheques, when he realised that three more cheques were pending to be encashed.

When the victim tried to contact the company and its employees, their mobile phones were switched off. After realising that he was duped by the company, and the representatives had entered amounts adding up to Rs 5,84,000 on the blank cheques, he approached the Magadi Road police and filed a complaint with them.

The Magadi Road police said that the accused had removed the seals on the cheques and had written amounts to the tune of 5,84,000 and transferred the money to an account belonging to the company.

The victim also told BM that he had visited the office Home Pay Solutions in Laggere. The company had reportedly hired some youth as their employees to identify and approach potential victims. Meanwhile the Mahalakshmi Layout police said that they had received a complaint from the employees of the Home Pay Solutions who alleged that the company did not pay their salaries and had collected their original documents such as SSLC marks cards and identification proofs which had not been returned to them. The police inspector said that they were still investigating the case as the company's proprietors, Madhu and Vishwanatha were currently absconding.

Ravi Channannavar, DCP West said that the incident had come to their notice and they would be taking strict action against those involved in the case.

Take care, say experts

The rise of financial frauds, say experts, is due to the over dependence on online banking. Ramesh Kumar, a retired public sector bank manager said that the recent generation was more used to online banking and getting their work done through agents that they did not invest time in going to a bank and doing business the old way. "Online transactions are not safe as one does not know who one is transacting with at the other end," said Kumar.

Talking about service at your door, Kumar said the customers would not know if the person at their door is actually from the bank or an impostor. "It is very easy to get duplicate identity cards. The customers should always cross check with the branch manager of the bank before sharing any documents with agents or people who come to their doorsteps. Customers can always take a photograph of the agent and send it to the bank manager to confirm his identity," said Kumar.

He further said that customers should personally meet the branch manager and hand over cheques at the bank premises and collect the acknowledgment.

The Times of India, Bengaluru