KARACHI: Hundreds of people, mostly women, were robbed of around Rs420 million allegedly by a Karachi-based social media influencer and businesswoman, who ran a monthly ballot committee system — an age-old method of interest-free savings and pooling money commonly known as BC or committees — without keeping any written records of depositors/contributors ending the whole scheme in total fraud.

Sidra Humaid, owner of a home-based food business ‘Daily Bites’ and handicraft start-up ‘Cróise’, allegedly defrauded hundreds of her depositors by announcing on social media that she had “no means to pay off her committees” to around 200 contributors leaving them in utter shock and disbelief.

Since last week, social media is abuzz with stories of victims of what many described as a Ponzi scheme. Many victims reached out to each other and formed WhatsApp groups to take action against Ms Humaid.

However, it appears no one has approached police or the Federal Investigation Agency against Ms Humaid so far in a bid to resolve the issue on their own.

On her part, Ms Humaid, whose whereabouts are not known, posted on social media: “Please guys don’t panic. Your money will be returned in the coming months.”

One of the victims told Dawn that Ms Humaid had pulled off the ‘scam’ of around Rs150m to Rs200m.

Sana Adnan, who lost Rs150,000, said most of the people knew Ms Humaid for the past seven to 10 years. “I joined two of her Committees. I was paying her Rs50,000 per month in one committee while in a 20-month committee, I was paying Rs25,000,” she said.

“Under the conventional system, each month, one member of the committee is paid the total amount. But, we found out that every month some ‘ghost’ member or someone in ‘her family’ is paid the total amount while we, all the members, kept paying the monthly committee throughout all months. It turned out that all the money was actually going to Ms Humaid herself,” she added.

Another victim, who wished not to be named, said: “For the past few months Ms Humaid had been posting stories on social media about her new fancy belongings like expensive cell phones, watches, etc, which explained where all the money was going, because her husband is a freelancer and she can’t make all that money from selling lasagne.”

The man, who had allegedly lost Rs970,500, said his sister told him about the committee in January and he deposited Rs50,000 per month against a Rs500,000 payout in the scheme.

He said he also took part in a business committee in which the payout was Rs800,000 against Rs100,000 per month and another where he had to pay Rs300,000 per month against Rs2.4m, but he didn’t get paid.

“I talked to Ms Humaid’s father. He said they will only return the amount which was transacted in her account...but the thing is we used to send money directly into the account of the person who had slot in that particular month at her behest.”

Dawn tried to contact Ms Humaid, but she neither received the call, nor responded to text messages.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2022

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