Real estate fraud is an insidious problem that continues to plague property transactions, leaving unsuspecting individuals in its wake and tarnishing the reputation of digital transactions. The impact of these fraudulent schemes calls for strict measures to safeguard the digital economy.
In a recent case, several professors from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi fell victim to a real estate scam, losing a staggering amount of Rs 11 crore. The fraudsters lured the professors by promising affordable housing projects under the land pooling policy of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The senior technical assistant of JNU has been arrested in connection with the fraud and cheating.
The scam came to light when the professors filed complaints with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police. The accused, identified as P.D. Gaikwad, formed the Noble Socio-Scientific Welfare Organisation (NSSWO) in 2015 to offer affordable housing. Gaikwad, posing as the President, convinced the professors to become members by presenting details of a proposed housing project in the L-Zone, Najafgarh, under DDA’s land pooling policy.
The professors joined NSSWO, booked units in the project, and made payments. However, Gaikwad provided false updates on the project’s progress and showed them a piece of land without any supporting documents. It became apparent over time that he had deceived them throughout the project.
In 2019, Gaikwad informed the professors about a new society, Siddhartha Officers Housing & Social Welfare Society, and suggested switching from NSSWO. When the professors requested a refund, their complaints went unanswered. Gaikwad misappropriated the funds and collected over Rs 11 crore.
During the investigation, it was revealed that Gaikwad had provided deceptive pictures and representations of the housing project, along with false inducements in emails depicting DDA’s land pooling policy. The DDA confirmed that no approval had been given for any project under the land pooling policy, and RERA (Delhi) stated that the alleged society was unregistered.
This incident highlights the diverse disguises that real estate fraud can take, from deceptive housing projects to the exploitation of digital payment methods. One such method involves the misuse of QR codes, where cyber criminals send QR codes or links to property sellers to enable payments. Once scanned, the money gets debited from the seller’s account.
Advocate Anant Malik explains that the receiver of money should never scan anything to receive payment. It is the sender who should follow the guidelines for online transfers. Such fraudulent acts attract various legal offences, including cheating, impersonation, and punishment for cheating using computer resources.
These cyber-enabled offences not only breach individual trust but also have far-reaching consequences for the country’s economy. They erode people’s trust in online financial transactions and discourage newcomers from entering the digital realm. Therefore, more stringent laws and specialized training for law enforcement agencies are essential to combat these crimes effectively.
In conclusion, real estate fraud continues to be a constant shadowy presence in property transactions. It is crucial to raise awareness, tighten regulations, and take proactive measures to protect individuals and maintain the integrity of digital transactions.