"Hello" my mom received the call.
"Hello, which place is this?" the stranger on the phone asked.
"This is ABC (our locality) and who are you looking for?" my mom replied.
Without answering her question the man began, "Do you use internet?"
"Yes we do.", my mom answered.
"So, how many members are there in your family? And do you know anything about cyber-crime?" The man asked.
That day was Nepalese New Year. We celebrate it according to our calendar. This year, our New Year was on 13th April according to the English Calendar. New Year is absolutely an auspicious occasion for us. This year, because of the lockdown, we could not gather and celebrate as we used to do. But yeah, we celebrated it in the best way possible staying in the house with family members only. It was around 11:50 that our telephone rang and my mom picked up the call. When I heard my mom giving such personal information to a stranger on the phone, I got a bit worried (because she is not that kind of person who likes sharing her personal details). So, I took over the call and started talking to the man.
"Hello, who are you and what happened?" I said in a rather loud voice.
"I am XYZ(name changed) , from the cyber-crime department." He replied.
"Cyber-crime department?" I got really shocked.
All of a sudden, my mouth felt as dry as dust and my heart started beating so hard that I could feel it in my head.
The man explained" Your photo has been posted in a social site that was about to go viral but then we deleted that. Had you posted such kind of photo ever on any site?"
"No, never. My photo? What kind of photo?" I still replied in a louder and commanding voice.
"I cannot explain what type it is but understand that it's something personal. Is there anyone there who understands these things?" he asked.
"Yes, I do understand it. In which site was that published and can I see that photo?" I replied feeling tensed and scared.
"There was a photo of a couple, your mom and dad. And we deleted it. This time we knew about it. So, we deleted it but this might happen next time too."
"So, what should I do?" I still continued in a loud voice.
"Listen. Collaborate with us. We'll help you. Had your parents ever taken such photograph and sent it to anyone?"
Without asking them I began, "No, they never do that. They're too old to do these things. Moreover, their morality doesn't let them do so."
"Ask them once. They might have done that some years ago." He continued in a forceful voice. "Those photos even when deleted may be achieved by the hackers if they get access to your device. So, ask them."
I asked my parents and as expected their reply was no.
"No, they never did that and why would they post their own photo? Was that on Facebook? They don't use others. Maybe, those photos are photo shopped." I was much stressed.
"Hey, can't I recognize whether the photo is original or photo shopped. Am I a fool? I was just trying to help you. Imagine what would have happened if the police came to your house on the New Year. What would your society think? Just listen." he said in a commanding tone.
I got much tensed hearing his words and the compelling voice. I could not think of anything and I spoke in a soft voice," So, what do I do?"
"Give me your Facebook profile."
"I don't have one. But, wait, why to do so? What is the proof that you are from the cyber-crime department?" My mind got twisted all of a sudden.
"How do I show proof through this phone? We are coming to your house with a warrant." he continued.
What he said got me stressed. My inclination for family took over the doubt and I gave him my mother's name.
At the same time, he searched her name on Facebook. He said, "Is she the one who is associated with Nepal Law Campus?"
"Yes, that's her Facebook profile. She is a lawyer." I was saying but then the call ended.
The conversation lasted for about ten minutes. We all got tensed. We could remember nothing but his words "We are coming to your house with a warrant." We started discussing about what he said to mom and me. I started recalling his words. And these three things confused me a lot.
- Why did he not tell us the site in which those photos were published?
- How did he come to know that the photos were of my parents? If he knew my parents, then why did he ask for Facebook profile?
- Why would a police think about our reputation in the society instead of coming to our house directly?
I shared my doubts with my parents. I started feeling like he was not a real one. When I started thinking, the last thing he knew was, my mom's a lawyer and the conversation was not complete. This all got me really confused and I came up with a sound idea. I thought of calling the actual cybercrime department and confirming the case. So, we searched the contact no. through internet and called there.
The phone was received by a policeman who mentioned his identity and post.
I asked him if anyone had called us from the department and shared all that happened.
"Okay. There's a person in our department whose name is XYZ. I'll ask him and call you back." he said.
After five minutes, there was a call from the department and what the police said was unexpected.
He said, "No, XYZ hadn't called you."
We were all shocked.
"So, what can we do now? Who was the caller? He knows my mother's Facebook profile. So, what if he does anything wrong?" I got nervous.
"If so, change your mother's Facebook and other accounts' password. Use a strong one. And yes, we can proceed further only if you give us the number of the caller."
"Okay sir." I cut the call.
I did as he suggested. I used a strong password and logged it out of all devices. We searched the call history on the telephone. We searched over and over. To our surprise, the caller's number was not recorded. We couldn't find anything about the caller.
So, I called at the department. The number was going busy. After a while, the same policeman received the call.
"It's so surprising, sir. The caller's no. has not been recorded in our telephone. Can anything like this happen?" I asked.
"Yes, such telephones exist. And we give such phones to selective people only. This should not have happened." He got astonished and still continued, "There was a call immediately after yours. And they, too reported the same case as yours. Now, I feel like, the caller was a fraud. Since we don't have the caller's no., we can't do anything further. Give me your name and number. If we need, we'll call you later. But right now, we can't do anything." saying this he cut the phone. It has been a week now. We've not had any calls. Neither from the policeman nor from the stranger. On the special day, someone tried to fool us. We also discussed about what his intentions probably were. We came up with a conclusion that, the person was a fraud and had ill intentions but when he came to know that my mom is a lawyer, he couldn’t proceed and cut the call. We informed our relatives about what happened to us and made them aware.
Amidst this sorrowful situation where the entire world is going through such misery created by (COVID 19), there are some people who are seeking to take advantage of such situation. Although our family was aware and educated, we got deceived at first and couldn't catch it the very first time. What if it had happened to the other uneducated family? They could have been misled very easily and might have been victimized, too. The caller could easily fulfill his intentions. So, it is necessary to become aware on such things. I learnt a very big lesson this year. I'm sharing this with my sisters so that they can be aware and also can inform other people on such issues. If I get any further information about the case, I'll let you know about it.
Dear sisters, let's stay strong and also aware at the same time during this difficult time!!