A Cellphone tower installation fraud

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By Petlee Peter: Persons from different parts of the country have fallen prey to it and lost over Rs. 50 lakh

In the line of fraudsters using new and ingenious methods to con gullible persons, a promise to install a cellphone tower on terraces or open lands, and earning heavy returns is the latest.

Persons from different parts of the country, including a good number of people in Chennai, are known to have fallen prey to the fraud which could account for more than Rs 50 lakh.

One victim has lodged a complaint with the city Police Commissioner on Thursday and an investigation is under way.

A senior officer said the case has been referred to the Central Crime Branch.

Last September, M. Murali Kumar of Madambakkam came across an advertisement in a regional daily saying “if you have a vacant land or a terrace, please contact for mobile phone tower installation.”

“I contacted the phone number given in the ad and a representative from the cellphone tower installation company told me that they are in-charge of five mobile service providers in the country and a person would be sent to inspect the prospective location for installation of the cellphone towers. I was asked to pay Rs.4,500 as documentation charges, which I did through a demand draft to a bank account number provided by the representative,” Murali said.

A man, who identified himself as Ahmed from the firm's Kodambakkam office, came to Murali's house and collected details of his land in Acharapakkam and allegedly approved it to be fit for installation of cellphone towers.

He promised Murali that his firm would pay a monthly rent of Rs. 27,000 and Rs. 8.1 lakh as advance for using the property and provided a written agreement for the deal.

“I suspected foul play after they asked for a deposit of Rs. 5,400 towards agreement charges a few days later,” he added.

However, another victim, S. Poonkodi from Velachery, deposited money both times after she was promised Rs. 32,000 a month as rent and Rs. 9.6 lakh as advance for tower installation on her land in Melmaruvathur by the same firm.

Murali posted a complaint with his mobile phone number on the website provided by the cellphone tower installation firm and also warned people of the fraud. “I received more than 60 calls, including from people in Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, West Bengal and others places in the country claiming to have been cheated by the firm,” he said.

K. Kalichamy, CEO of professional cellphone tower installation firm Indus Towers Limited, said that the tower installation fraud had also come to their notice.

“None of the telecom companies collects any commission from the land-owner and the agents who have been given the task of tower installations have been strictly advised on the matter,” he added.