NoCoolStory has learned that an Indian villager recently travelled more than a thousand miles to the BBC office in Delhi in an unusual quest – to claim millions of rupees he believed he had won in a “BBC lottery”.
Ratan Kumar Malbisoi, a 41-year-old unemployed Indian villager, fell for a message he received on his mobile phone nearly two years ago.
“The message said I had won the BBC’s national lottery for 20 or 30 million rupees ($319,000-$478,000; £194,000-£292,000). I was asked to send my details so that they could send me the money,” he says.
A poor man, with little formal education, he was unable to fathom that this was a phishing message and that he was being “scammed”.
Around the same time, I and several of my colleagues also received similar messages. The texts evoked much mirth, but we all deleted them and forgot about them.
But Malbisoi got in touch with the scammers, emailed them his bank details and account statement, and spoke to them several times over the past two years, beseeching them to send him the promised funds.
Last month, he travelled about 1,700km (1,056 miles) from his remote village in the eastern state of Orissa to the BBC office in Delhi with a lot of hope.
He had borrowed money from some friends and arrived in the city while it was in the grip of a cold snap, dressed in just a shirt and a pair of trousers.
His train had arrived the evening before and he says he spent the night on the platform before reaching the BBC office in the morning.
He was referred to me because when he presented himself at the reception desk, he asked to see a Geeta or Smita – he said in one of the calls he had received from the “BBC office”, the caller had identified herself by one of the two names.
What he told me was that when he received the first text message in April 2012, he lost no time in responding with his name and address. Within a few hours, the scammers called him back.
“The caller said he was the BBC’s chancellor. He spoke really well. He promised me a large sum of money but said I would have to first send 12,000 rupees ($191; £117) so that he can transfer the money into an RBI account.” RBI or the Reserve Bank of India is the country’s central bank.
“I told them I was a very poor man and that I didn’t have any money to give them. He said then they couldn’t pay me any money, but over a period of time, we kept negotiating and they finally asked me for 4,000 rupees,” he says.
Read more: BBC Africa