It’s a sad thing.
It was not an unusual type of telephone enquiry for a room at the BnB. An Indian woman travelling with her ten-year-old son required a room for the following day and for a total of four nights.
We did have a room so I offered to send details to her email address so she would know what to expect. It’s our usual practice. She explained that she would be unable to read the email  but she’d seen us on the net so knew what to expect. She followed up by sending a text with her name, she was a Doctor 
Next morning I received a phone call from her with some urgency and concern. Could I recommend the best hospital in Mysore? She’d had an accident in her car and her son was injured. They were in a country area, quite a way from Mysore. She’d dealt with his immediate needs and where they now were didn’t have the facilities to treat her son’s condition. It sounded more serious than I first thought. They would need to transfer to Mysore. I recommended the Columbia Asia Hospital.
Beyond that, it was unclear, it seemed like she was now separated from her car, it was I assumed, badly damaged.
Of course, I was shocked and concerned and willing to help wherever I could.
A little later she telephoned again. She had contacted the Mysore hospital and was making arrangements for the transfer. It was all a little hurried and she was understandably panicky and not always making a lot of sense.  Someone had kindly covered the bill but she needed some help, to pay him back. Her money, cards etc were left in the car or taken by someone. Her mother was to call me from North India to explain things.
Her Mum was understandably concerned and was planning to get down here from Assam. That would be no easy task. She’d been unable to pay the guy who had helped out by paying the bills, could I help?
There was a bank strike where she was and didn’t have all the details of his branch (the IFSC No) so it wasn’t possible to do a transfer via the internet. It could, however, be paid into a branch of his bank. Of course, I’d be willing to help, she’d transfer 1 lakh to my account and from it I’d pay 40,000 Rs  cash into this guy’s account and the rest would be available for her daughter to use for the hospital bills etc here in Mysore. All I had to do was send my bank details, for some reason she couldn’t retrieve them via my suggestion of an Email  so I’d send them via text/sms. Not a problem.
Her daughter calls to give me an update. She’s so apologetic for putting me through this and having to ask for my help. She’s contacted Doctor xx in Columbia Asia and they need to get her son there to see the neurologist. Getting the money quickly is critical, so they can get away.
This was clearly a middle-class professional family with exceptionally good English but one of the problems, beyond the obvious concern for her son, was not knowing the local language and being in a relatively rural area.
I receive a text from Mum, as sent from her bank , the cash had been transferred.
Mum calls again. The money has left her bank but it might take a couple of hours to reach my bank.
I reflect. It’s no problem for me to sort out, I’m always happy to help wherever I can, I have cash here or money in the Bank, I don’t have to wait for it to come through, I can zip over there on the scooter in no time at all.
This is all quite urgent.
Hang on a minute, though.
I have a niggling doubt.
Is this a con? I don’t want to think it is and I most definitely don’t want to let them down if it’s legitimate. They are in a potentially difficult and maybe life threatening situation.
I think it’s important that we do help people, particularly if they are in distress. It’s only human and to me an important value.
But, there were a few aspects that didn’t ring true (I’ve numbered some of them above) and if it was a scam, it was clever and sophisticated or am I just gullible? I discussed it with Chris and Eliza who are staying at the BnB. Initially, I still felt it was likely to be legitimate but the more I thought about it, the more the doubts grew.
I easily found the missing Bank (IFSC) reference number and texted to pass it on and suggested that the Mum could send the money direct to his account. If she sent me her bank details I could send back what wasn’t required here in Mysore. I was calling her bluff!
It’s now the evening and its all gone quiet. Thankfully I held off and my doubts were confirmed. There’s been no further contact and the money hasn’t appeared in the bank.
At this distance, it might seem to you that it should have been obvious. It wasn’t then but to me it does seem so now. In many ways, it was cleverly done. But the fraudsters must get results otherwise they wouldn’t try it on.
So there it is, it takes all sorts and I think it is a sad thing.