Crowdfunding campaigns on the internet often seek funds for heart-rending problems of people who are in real need of help, but what happens when one of them turns out to be a con?
A 22-year-old woman from Hyderabad was arrested on Thursday by the Banjara Hills police for duping people by collecting almost Rs 22 lakh in the pretext of getting cancer treatment for herself. She had uploaded several forged documents and given out false information on social media. The woman has been identified as Samiya Abdul Hafeez, a resident of Saidabad.
According to the police, Samiya ran an elaborate hoax and collected the money from September 2016 to March 2017. Several people from different parts of Hyderabad and Saudi Arabia had fallen prey to the scam. The police arrested Samiya from her house in Hyderabad two days after she arrived in the city.
Samiya’s father Abdul Hafeez reportedly had throat cancer, and had been undergoing treatment in Omega Hospital in Hyderabad. Samiya, who was staying in Riyadh, came to visit her father during the treatment and used to frequently accompany him to the hospital.
During one such visit, she met the founder of the hospital Dr Mohana Vamsy who treated her father.
“Samiya told Dr. Vamsy that their family was facing a lot of trouble to fund the treatment of her father. She requested the doctor to tell her about some funding agencies that will help the poor for treatment. When the doctor started explaining, she requested him and took a video about the cost of cancer treatment and how those who can, should help poor patients by donating money,” Banjara Hills inspector K Srinivas told Times of India.
She launched an online campaign in September last year, on a Facebook page that she created, named ‘Go Fund Samya’. Here was where it got tricky. According to Deccan Chronicle, she posted the doctor’s video, asking for funds. However, she asked for donations, not to treat her father, but apparently for her brain and breast cancer treatment.
She also reportedly posted pictures of medical prescriptions, scan reports and hospital bills on the Facebook page.
The New Indian Express reported that the fundraising request went viral on social media and several people extended help. She opened an SBI account at the Gunfoundry branch in Hyderabad, which was flooded with donations from different parts of Hyderabad and from other countries in the middle east as well.
However, In January, several people started asking for proof.
According to a blog, titled ‘Don’t Fund Samya’, which claims to ‘expose’ the scam, “Samya was seen by multiple eyewitnesses purchasing jewellery and at a beauty parlor in Hara, Riyadh on January 31, 2017, in perfect health, while claiming online that she was in a coma during that time.”
In February this year, Samiya’s friends from Riyadh came down to Hyderabad and went to the hospital where she said she was undergoing treatment.
However, the doctors reportedly denied that they were treating any patient with that name. They added that her father was a cancer survivor.
Additionally, the first proof that Samiya posted, was a letter that claimed to be handwritten on the memo pad of a company called ‘Abdul Lateef Co.’ that she claimed paid a part of her treatment. However, the blog claims that the company confirmed that no such letter was issued by them and they were never approached by any cancer patient for monetary funding.
“The letter has no name of the signatory – no company will issue an official letter handwritten and without the name of who issued the letter. The stamp on this letter is the same as that on the next letter (printed on the letterhead of Health Beam Co.) and Abdul Lateef Co. (sic)” the blog claimed.
Soon after this, the donors realised that they had been cheated, and filed a complaint.
One of the donors even posted on Facebook about the fraud in February, requesting people to stop funding.
“Samya has posted a second set of reports on a new group. And that is when, we could see clearly that those were questionable, plus there was one out-patient card, that looked like the same card that was provided to us during the first case along with Dr. Vamsy's letter (and posted on the original group too) except that whitener had been put on it and dates had been changed. We've been trying to get in touch with Dr. Vamsy to get the exact story about it as well, so that that can be put on in public as proof for whatever is fake - so that if we accuse, we do it properly with all the proofs,”(sic) Niha Samiya Naqeeb who had been donating her money posted on Facebook.
After the arrest, police say that Samiya claimed to have spent around Rs 10 lakh on her father’s treatment. It is still unclear as to what happened to the rest of the money.
“The donors deposited in her account at the SBH branch in Gunfoundry. Only Rs 5,000 was left in the account," Inspector Srinivas told DC.