KARACHI, Dec 16: Fraudsters are increasingly using forged pay orders, once considered a secure mode of payment, to swindle people out of their valuable belongings, particularly vehicles, it emerged on Sunday.

“The pay order appeared perfectly authentic. I showed it to an (bank) accountant who also okayed it. So, I handed over the vehicle with its papers to the buyer. But I was in for a shock when I went to deposit it in the bank and the staff told me it was forged,” said Dr Syed Zubair Ali.

He said the pay order was given to him by a woman who called him after reading his car sale advertisement in a newspaper. She came right away, inspected the vehicle and cut the deal at Rs500,000, said Dr Ali.

It took Dr Ali around a week to have a proper FIR registered against the forgery. “When I went to the branch of the bank whose name was on the pay order in order to lodge a complaint, the staff refused to listen to me,” he said.

It turned out that the doctor alone was not the victim of swindle by the same person or gang. The woman used his car the very next day to hunt another unsuspecting car seller in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

She called the owner of a Liana car and said she was outside his residence with the pay order. “She arrived at around 7pm on Dec 5 with the pay order made out to me according to my brother’s instructions. We got the pay order and handed her over the vehicle with documents,” said Faisal Shaikh.

“But soon afterwards, we had a common feeling that something was wrong. I called a friend of mine who worked in a bank on Sharea Faisal and inquired of him about the bank branch written on the pay order,” he said.

“My friend told me there were three branches of the same bank on the thoroughfare, but none was named after the road.” said Mr Shaikh.

“Our suspicions proved right. We dashed to the police station and managed to get an entry made in the Roznamcha about the fraud,” he said.

“The copy of the CNIC she had given us originally belonged to another woman living in Orangi Town. She had just replaced the picture on the card to make it pass for hers.”

In both cases, forged pay orders of the same bank were used in the deals, but the bank in question expressed its inability to take any action, said Dr Zubair Ali, adding that he came to know later that the woman had cheated many other people in a similar fashion.

“We have received 83 complaints of fake pay orders mostly used in car deals during the 11 months of the current year,” said Ahmed Chinoy, head of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee.

During 2011, a total of 78 similar cases were reported to the CPLC, said Mr Chinoy.

He said that at least three gangs of fraudsters were operating in the city, cheating people through fake pay orders. In the past, gangs had been busted by the police and the CPLC but it appeared the criminals were back in business too soon again since Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Pakistan Penal Code under which they were convicted was a bailable offence, he said.

The State Bank of Pakistan has failed to come to the rescue of unsuspecting bank customers who are being swindled out of their valuables through fake pay orders.

The central bank was aware of the scam as the commercial banks routinely reported it to the regulator, said an SBP spokesman.

An SBP circular issued in 2005 says: “all banks and development financial institutions are advised to submit a quarterly statement of frauds, forgeries and dacoities within 15 days of the close of each calendar quarter along with a soft copy to the Banking Supervision Department of SBP.

“Furthermore, banks and DFIs will separately report to this department all material incidents of frauds, forgeries and dacoities etc of Rs1 million and above on urgent basis.”

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