Get a ‘friend’ for Rs 10

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Observing the increasing use of mobile phones in the country, swindlers have modified their game-plan. By using women as the bait, swindlers have now started giving ads in newspapers, offering personal phone numbers of girls interested in making new friends for Valentines Day, dance parties and other occasions at the rate of Rs 100 for ten cell numbers.
It is a new age scam. Using all the tools available in the modern day; cell phones and newspapers, and women as temptation, swindlers now have come up with a plan, which allows them to sit at home and earn money while simultaneously minimising the probability of getting caught. Almost three to four ads are seen in newspapers everyday, especially evening papers, hinting on the amount of revenue swindlers are bagging.
The mode of the payment used in the new strategy is mobile phone easy load. The swindlers ask people, who call in for phone numbers, to transfer Rs 100 in their mobile account to complete the transaction. Upon receiving phone credit, the swindlers send in numbers which are either switched off or are the one’s no one answers.
The ads given in newspapers encourage readers to extend friendship with unknown people from the opposite sex. Pakistan Today translated a couple of ads: “Get numbers of thousands of good-looking boys and girls for friendship, marriage, Valentines Day and parties and make your lonely moments more delightful – Miss Saima.” One ad, headlined “mobile friendship: dreams come true,” reads: “Get addresses and phone numbers of rich and beautiful girls and boys from all over Pakistan for friendship and marriage. Choose your own partners. 100 percent guarantee – Miss Nazish.”
All ads have a number given at the end. Pakistan Today, when called on one of the numbers, a female answered the phone and explained the deal. The woman identified herself as Nazish and claimed to be a student. She said that all the callers had to transfer mobile credit to complete the transaction. “One number is for Rs 10 and we have two deals: 10-number deal and five-number deal,” she said. After depositing credit in her mobile account, numbers along with names of the ladies were received. A total of 10 numbers were received out of which four were switched of while six cell numbers were not answered. When Nazish was contacted again, she maintained that she could not do anything about the numbers and that the deal was over now. “The money is not reimbursable… We can not help you in this case,” said Nazish.
After investigating further into the play, the business manager of the mobile friendship gang was found. He claimed that his name was Mehmood Butt. In an exclusive talk with Pakistan Today, Butt said that he was happy with the business. “My phones are busy all the time. There are people calling from all over the city,” said Butt. He said that most of the callers were men, but women too called in once in a while. He said that his job was to provide numbers and dealing with the numbers was not his concern. He refrained from unveiling the source of his cell number database. While answering a question, he said that he saved Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 everyday. “I save up to Rs 1200 on bad days and on good days I can touch Rs 1900. Rs 1500 is what I save on an average.”
NOT ACCEPTABLE: Such scams come under the swindling law and under 25D of the Telegram Act, as cell phones are being to perform a fraudulent activity. Pakistan Today contacted SSP Investigations Abdur Rehman Cheema, who handles the section of organised crime. The SSP, while condemning the activity, said that no complaint had been received about such an incident. The SSP said that a complaint defined the issue properly and boosted legal proceedings. “Such an activity is not acceptable in any way. It is fraud and there is no doubt about that. Such an activity can ruin the society too,” he said. He said that in a “clean and reserves society” such scams should not be harboured.
Cheema said that such scams had the potency to turn into bigger mishaps like kidnappings. He said that the police have come across many cases in which men were called by women and later kidnapped. “In some cases, they weren’t even women; they had changed their voices,” he said. He said marriage bureaus were welcomed but such an activity would not be tolerated.
Auriya Maqbool Jan, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that such businesses were depressing. He said the media should not be encouraging such activities. “Where is the DGPR? Where are the media regulatory authorities?” he questioned. He said that government media bodies should regularise and keep an eye on such ads.
University of Central Punjab Dean Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Dr Khalid Zaheer said there might be many reasons for such an activity. He said many people tried to find easy ways of earning. “It is alarming that women are being used in this,” he said. He said that such games could lead to prostitution. He maintained that such ads should be regulated.
SAFMA President Imtiaz Alam said no one could stop such ads from appearing in the paper and it was the responsibility of the reader to report to the newspaper if the ad turned out to be a fraud. He said marriage ads and other ads of the sort also appeared in the paper.

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