This is a story about how some Bhutanese were defrauded on Facebook. Similar fraud made news once during the email days, where people were declared winner of million dollar lottery and asked to pay few thousand dollars to claim their prizes. Some seemed to have silently dreamt of million dollars and blindly jumped into the traps. That news should have be enough to caution us against any similar promises we receive over the internet. But some sort to learn the lesson the hard way.
Facebook is now a world of its own. People make career out of being on Facebook and some are professional frauds. That's their full time job. They write to thousands of people across the world with perhaps thousands of accounts. The old trick comes in new bottle. I have received hundreds of messages from beautiful girls, of course they are using fake identities, claiming to like my profile and seek my friendship. But interesting they ask us to write to them in their email addresses and not Facebook, which is when you have to know they is something fishy. When you don't reply them for over a day, you will notice that the account is deactivated and message gone.
Few months ago, a lady friend who was having a difficult life as single mother joyfully shared about her new found friend from the US. She told my wife that the man was sending her an iPad and iPhone. They have also planned to meet in Bhutan later this year. We were so happy for her. Her man was a captain on some ship and has sent her his picture too. He was a bit older but she was happy about that. They were even calling each other on the phone.
One day she called my wife to ask if we could help her get her parcel form Bangkok because seemingly her parcel was stranded in Bangkok for some reason. She has the postal number for the parcel. We told her that it's just matter of time. Then one day she was looking for money and she disclosed to my wife that she had to send $1000 to claim her parcel. Her man was on the ship and he was helpless. That's when I knew it was a fraud. I told her through my wife, to tell him she can wait until he reaches a seaport to clear the parcel from Bangkok. He told her that if she waits the parcel could be lost. Then we played smart and told him that we will send our relative in Bangkok to collect the parcel. Next moment his Facebook account was deactivated and his number was switched off. We could rescue her. Though we shattered her dream.
Not even a month passed when when my wife heard another woman excitedly talking about some parcel arriving and stranded somewhere. She was someone we knew closely and my wife told her our friend's story, only to discover that she went through almost the same script. She later confided to my wife that she already sent Nu.40,000 and because there was a diamond ring in the parcel she was asked to send Nu.100,000 more. She was almost ready with the cash when my wife rescued her.
Another friend my wife rescued was an old friend in Paro who was receiving generous help from a man overseas in getting the US visa. We were in Paro to drop our son when she invited us over to her place. She had lots of business plans before but we found out that she has dropped all the idea because she was readying to fly to America. We told her not to send any money before receiving the visa if he really means his help, and if he is a fraud he will cut all contacts with you. That happened.
These are the stories of three ladies that I knew of, and I can guess that there could be lots of male victims looking at the number of messages I am receiving from frauds posing as girls. Just that man won't admit it easily.
There could be hundreds of such stories hidden under heavy debts and humiliation, if only they could come out and tell their stories the next hundred could be saved. Bhutan is increasingly chasing American dream and many people silently and blindly go to any extend. We must warn people around us, especially those that are not very familiar about social media. I have highlighted the key words that frauds have used with those three ladies, let innocent people around you take note of them. Let them know that there is nobody so kind out there who would send them anything just by being a Facebook friend- Not diamond ring at least. It's common sense.