‘Work from home’ internet scams are flourishing in India and luring thousands of gullible people under the pretext of online work, like basic typing work. Several US-based websites, which are banned in that country, are targeting Indians through localised version of their website
We have come across many internet frauds like the Rs2,000 crore Speak Asia online survey fraud, multi level marketing (MLM) schemes, pyramid and Ponzi schemes that lured people under pretext of different products and services. But in the end, their main aim was only to get money from pockets of people. Now, a bunch of US based websites are luring thousands of people across the world. Some of have launched Indian version of websites. One called ‘GroupDealTools’ of home profit system, and another website masquerading as a personalised and genuine website, named ‘Kavita Mehra’s Online Profits Course’ as promoted.
The portal ‘GroupDealTools’ offers Rs6,302 per day for basic typing work. Apart from the extraordinary returns, another give-away for even slightly sensible investors should be the hard-selling tone of typical MLM’s and Get-Rich-Quick Schemes used on this portal is: “Try it today, be your own boss, set your own hours! Live the lifestyle you deserve! Join the thousands who already made Money using this system! Easy to use & 100% safe, Don’t miss the opportunity!”
The site claims to be seen on The Hindu, The Times of India and India Today to gain people’s confidence and credibility.
After filing a registration form, the catch is that, although it offers a limited time discount on registration and 30 days money-back policy, it requires potential members to provide credit card details to charge Rs6,336 and give special discount for 45 days ‘free’ membership which costs Rs3,806. When exiting the site, another pop up comes and offers further discount at Rs2,750, a special 10 minute discount, so that users don’t get time to think and check its credibility. Even as complaints pour in after deducting registration amount, such websites continue to deduct money from credit cards after every few days.
Many complaints are already piling up from Indians on different consumer forums against websites like ‘GreatDealTools’. One such victim, Mankiran, shared on Consumer Complaints stating: “I saw the promos and names like TOI and TV channels which covered them, They offered membership at Rs5,955 was not a big risk, plus a 30-day money-back guarantee was there if I didn't make money. Errors during registration required me to repeat registration 4 times and total deductions or Rs23,821.56 has been made from my account without any login id, receipt. I want to cancel my membership and claim full refund.”
These sites are also promoting themselves on different portals that look like any news and media website. For example, ‘GroupDealTools’ is promoted by ‘careertimes.org’ and includes “success stories” making it more personalised to entrap people to join. One such story is about an Indian mother who reportedly managed to earn Rs3 lakh per month after joining this site. The story has an image of the lady and her daughter, with their first monthly cheque of Rs3.25 lakh. Interestingly, Careertimes.org does not allow anyone to comment on these stories and filters them. This website follows the same gimmick of touting its own advertisements on channels like CNN IBN, Times Now, NDTV, Aajtak, CNBC TV18 and Sun Network to boost credibility.
Another victim says, “I would like to warn and advise people not to fall in Kavita Mehra's online work from home programme. I responded to an internet advertisement. It claimed I would easily be able to make money on the internet by just posting links. I paid money through debit card and got the login details of millionnairesociety.com. This is not what I signed up for and I believe this is an unfair and deceptive practice. I want to get my money back as they promised its 100% money-back guarantee if we are not satisfied but can't get access to any of their contact details. The website is very tempting, but to be frank it’s false advertising and frankly a big scam.”
US-based sites have localised versions of their websites which sends personalised emails and publishes inspiring testimonials, targeting customers. Many Indians have got following email with the subject line: “A Personal Request”
Achievements in Life never come easily to anyone.
It may take months, years or even decades for things to work out in the right way, even if you strive endlessly day and night to earn enough for your family.
I have started to believe differently after I tried this.
A right opportunity, at the right time, and a right decision changed my life forever.
I'm earning about Rs1,80,000 - Rs2,00,000 every month and all I needed was access to a computer, and a couple of hours every day to work.
Here's what I am talking about (Link)
This is working for everyone who was smart enough to make the decision!
The above email redirects its readers to a website which has a success story. In India, there are three websites: careertimes, newsonlineweekly and economicalert which promotes ‘GroupDealTool’. However, all the websites contain the same stories with different photographs and links. It shows how ‘legitimate’ the site is! As you can see from the picture below, both these mothers have same story and both of them followed different sites—‘Online Profits’ and ‘eStorebuilder’— of same US-based fraudsters.
US-based fraudsters run this scam across countries with their localised websites, its main website, which is available in every country, operate as newsonlineweekly. This portal also has same typical ‘success story Arpita and Krishna from India, of mom and daughter who made money’. It provides link of the website where one can get started! The following picture exposes the reality—how one mom Melissa can make money in three different countries US, United Kingdom, Canada by doing typing work.
Unlike the Indian government which is not taking any action against these type of internet scamsters, the US such fraud sites are banned. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published notice on its website cautioning people to stay away from this kind of scams stated: “Work-at-Home Scams: Do Not Take the Bait! Everyone’s seen them- seductive work-at-home opportunities hyped in flyers tacked to telephone poles, in newspaper classifieds, in your e-mail, and all over the web, promising you hundreds or thousands of dollars a week for typing, stuffing envelopes, processing medical billing, etc. And it’s just a phone call or mouse click away. It might be tempting during these uncertain economic times, but beware of any offers that promise easy money for minimum effort-many are scams that fill the coffers of criminals.”
Moneylife has frequently warned that "If it looks too good to be true, it usually is." This is clearly another in the same category.
To know more about such online scams read our other articles:
Mr Thimiri, the so-called CEO of the controversial MLM, owns registered trademark of QNet in India. He also admitted before the High Court that his company Transview imports and manufactures products for selling to Vihaan Direct, the official franchisee of QNet in India
The case of QNet, the Hong Kong-based controversial multi-level marketing (MLM) operator is taking new twists every day even as all top executives of the company in India decided to stay hidden citing a case filed with economics offences wing (EOW) of Mumbai police.
Interestingly, Suresh Thimiri, who is often touted as QNet India's chief executive and had denied any relationship with QNet or any of its representatives, owns the 'QNet' trademark in India through his company Transview Enterprises Pvt Ltd! See the images below obtained from Trade Marks Registry. Mr Thimiri's company has filed class 42 application for 'QNet' trademark in India.
As Moneylife reported, Mr Thimiri, in his anticipatory bail application filed on 19 August 2013, before additional session Judge DA Dholkia had said, "The applicant (Thimiri) does not hold any sort of relation neither with the Company (QNet) nor its representative (including Eswaran and Vihaan Direct Selling India Pvt Ltd) against whom the Complaint has been lodged by the respondents (Gurupreet Singh Anand) in Oshiwara Police Station." (See image below)
Transview Enterprises is an associate company of Vihaan Direct Selling that handles QNet's MLM operations in India since 14 April 2012. Before that QNet's Indian operations were controlled by QuestNet Enterprises (India) Pvt Ltd, a company registered at Chennai. QuestNet Enterprises was operating QNEI eStore, a platform from where IRs, which is how the investor-dealers of QNet are described, could place orders or buy products and also enrol new recruits. After launching Vihaan, the company asked all its old IRs to mandatorily register under the new business name in order to receive their commissions. Vihaan is a direct selling agent of QNet and had done large financial transactions with Mr Thimiri's company Transview. This made the EOW to freeze Transview's bank accounts in ING Vyasa Bank at Bengaluru.
Mr Thimiri, who in his anticipatory bail application had denied any relations with QNet and its representative, has ratified deals between Vihaan Direct Selling and his company, Transview Enterprise.
In his application before the Bombay High Court to defreeze bank accounts of Transview Enterprise, Mr Thimiri said, "The applicant (Mr Thimiri, director of Transview) is in the business of importing and manufacturing products such as Bio Discs, Chi Pendants, Nutriplus, Homepure, watches and various other products and sells the same to M/s Vihaan Direct Selling India Pvt Ltd."
These revelations may come as shocker to few die-hard independent representatives (IRs) of QNet as they strongly believe that all QNet products are imported! From where? Only the company knew about, as it is kept hidden from public view. Anyway, now with Mr Thimiri's clarification about 'manufacturing' of QNet products, these IRs will know the truth.
After perusing both the applications filed by Mr Thimiri before Courts, here are some facts...
1. Mr Thimiri accepted that Transview does not have any relations with Vihaan Direct Selling except supplier-purchaser relations.
2. Mr Thimiri's Transview Enterprise owns the QNet trademark (used exclusively by Vihaan) in India.
3. Vihaan Direct Selling is QNet Ltd's franchisee that carries the QNet brand name in India. After launching Vihaan, the company asked all its old IRs to mandatorily register under the new business name in order to receive their commissions.
4. Mr Thimiri has been named as accused in the report submitted by the EOW before the Sessions Court, Mumbai. It states: “The accused Suresh Thimiri has played active role in running the Money Circulation Scheme under the guise of investment opportunity and the income earned by the participants is based on enrolment of new members into the scheme.”
While Mr Thimiri is trying very hard to de-link himself from the probe, his own submissions are revealing truth. Vihaan Direct Selling carries 'QNet' brand in India that is registered trademark of Transview Enterprise of Mr Thimiri. The submission made by Mr Thimiri before the Courts only underline his links with QNet in India.
Another interesting aspect in the whole episode is all top officials (?) of QNet India do not want to reveal their identity and remain hidden. We repeatedly sent emails to the company's official PR agency and also some officials from its parent QI group.
We asked "Can you please tell us about Mr Suresh Thimiri, who is often labelled as India CEO of QNet on QNetIndia's Facebook page. Is Mr Thimiri the CEO of QNet in India? If not, then who heads QNet in India and who are the top management people? In addition, we would like to know the relations, if any, between QNet, Vihaan Direct Selling India Pvt Ltd and Transview Enterprises Pvt Ltd."
Here is the reply we received from the PR agency of QNet India...
"This is apropos our telecon now a while back and in furtherance to our earlier discussion which took place on the 30 August 2013 with regards to our client QNET, referred by you in your email. On your request, we reached out to our client again today, but they were of the same considered view that since the matter is still sub-judice, they would not like to give any comments for the time being. We will be happy to reach out to you should our client decide to make any statement to the media in the future."
The Reserve Bank must tender accountability in order to claim and enjoy autonomy from the government. Scale notwithstanding, lobbying, as a strategy, is also debatable
Accountability and ethics are very crucial to the survival of the financial sector and there is no doubt that there has been a systemic breakdown in the accountability and ethics globally across the financial sector in the last few years, leading to various forms of economic crisis, the effects of which we are still experiencing today! As all of you would agree, the integrity and credibility of financial markets and peoples’ trust in these markets is of paramount importance to the economic health of countries and India is no exception to this basic dictum. And therefore, without any doubt, the stability, soundness, safety and sustained prosperity of India’s financial system and larger economy rely fundamentally on the notions of fairness, transparency and accountability.
That said, while businesses and individuals in the financial sector have every right to pursue profits, at the same time they also have an intrinsic duty to produce services of high quality and need to conduct themselves fairly and with a high degree of transparency and accountability. However, this change can happen in real time only if the central bank (the Reserve Bank of India-RBI), which is the primary regulator of the financial sector, starts to facilitate this process of metamorphosis, which is required NOW, more than ever before! In other words, unless the RBI becomes the change that it wants to see on the ground in the financial sector, I am afraid that there will be very little action on the ground in terms of accountability!
So, what needs to be done to help move the RBI to a more accountable entity, from a long term perspective? We discuss this briefly in this final article in the series on RBI’s accountability!
First, there is the issue of legal accountability. Like in many other countries (USA and elsewhere), this would require the governor of the RBI to depose on a quarterly or semi-annual basis before a select committee of Hon Parliament such as the Hon Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (PSCF). Ideally, this deposition should follow the policy pronouncements made by the RBI. Being an unelected individual with such huge powers, the RBI governor must clearly be subject to Parliamentary Accountability, apart from the existing mechanisms. This would also mean to suggest that the RBI governor should therefore, be appointed by a Parliamentary committee and also be capable of being removed by them, if the situation so demands!
And, as noted in the media, Dr Duvvuri Subbarao, former governor of RBI, has argued for the same and I quote him,
“The Reserve Bank must tender accountability in order to claim and enjoy autonomy from the government ... We must be conscious to the fact that we are unelected officials. And our mandate is that the government has appointed us. In order to claim, demand autonomy from the government, and to enjoy that autonomy, we must remember that we must tender accountability ... Reserve Bank must take its accountability seriously if it wants to be knowledge institution. ...The governor should go before a select committee of the Parliament ... Just like it happens in US, UK, where the governor goes and gives evidence before the committee. In India too, the governor must go and tender accountability to members of Parliament select committee. That will be a good practice,"i
Second, while Parliamentary accountability is crucial, it cannot however be a substitute for basic accountability of the RBI to the non-executive members of the RBI board—especially, from an operational perspective. Here, I would like to humbly state that, these board members must become serious and active players in the immediate accountability of the RBI and the governor—that is why they are in the RBI board in the first place.
Let us face it! The RBI is a great example of a central bank that has, by and large, individual centric decision making. Whether it is monetary policy or any other function, the governor unquestionably reigns supreme. An added factor makes the respected governor omnipresent and omnipotent at the RBI—the high level of discretion currently available to himii (which I am not questioning here).
Given the above, my overall point is simple: subject the presently available huge discretionary decision making powers with the RBI governor to normal checks and balances (of good governance) so as to facilitate greater accountability in decision making! Put differently, make the governor answerable to the non-executive members of the board of the RBI. In fact, at this basic level, the non-executive members of the RBI board must make the governor and RBI accountable for the use of the countries’ (scarce) resources, performance of regulatory and supervisory functions and the consequences of their actions.
Thus, as at Bank of New Zealand, what is needed is a framework of accountable autonomy where the governor (along with his team) are the primary decision-makers at the central bank and the Board exclusively engages in a monitoring role, evaluating the performance of the central bank and governor.
Third, facilitate the transition from being an individual centric decision maker (that most RBI governor’s have tended to be) to one who uses the collection potential and wisdom of RBI’s deputy governor’s, executive directors and others. This model of central banking is certainly not without merits and must be tried before it is dismissed. More importantly, this would certainly call for the creation of an empowered monetary policy committee along with voting rights—an advisory committee would not do here as it fixes no responsibility at all. Of course, this would also require that clear mandates and objectives exist (for the RBI) along with inflation and other targets. To reiterate, there is considerable evidence globally from the experience of central banks to show that group based collective decision making has led to better results and actions on the ground for the economy as compared to highly individualistic decision making that most of our RBI governor’s have tended to engage in!iii
Fourth, the RBI must not only be audited by independent external auditors but more importantly, it should also be subject to audit by the CAG (The Comptroller and Auditor General). Look at the example of Bundesbank (Germany), which is a much cited example of a central bank in Europe. It has been subject to both independent external audits as well as oversight by the supreme audit authority (federal court of auditors). I fail to understand the logic that the RBI is different and therefore needs no CAG oversight. In fact, Parliamentary (and legal) accountability will be enhanced significantly, if and only if the RBI is subject to a CAG audit!
Last but not the least, there is so much lobbying that happens by firms and individuals in the financial services industry, and especially with the regulator. The RBI must be more transparent on such lobbying. Without any doubt, the right to voice our concerns and interests, and thereby attempt to influence public policy, is fundamental to any democracy like India. Many stakeholders including individuals, businesses, industry associations, advocacy organisations and other stakeholders have this fundamental right. However, lobbying is, indeed facing a crisis of legitimacy (e.g., the Radia tapes have revealed a lot). It is also very big business, especially for those representing these companies and (sometimes, even) foreign countries. Even the normally passionate civil society lobbying, has started to acquire significant commercial dimensions, often galvanising support for an extraordinary range of objectives. Without any doubt, the sheer numbers of lobbyists and the huge resources at their command perhaps, even threaten to overwhelm and/or co-opt public (minded) officials and the RBI is no exception to this trend—in fact, there was said to be significant lobbying by industry associations and others before, during and after the 2010 AP micro-finance crisis.
Another issue is relevant here. Scale notwithstanding, lobbying, as a strategy, is also debatable for several reasons. Many a time, sadly, the spirit of law is not observed. Further, sometimes undue influence falls into too few hands, or into the hands of those with very narrow commercial interests—I have pointed out in the earlier articles the present case where a single person holds seven (I had thought just six) very high profile positions related to the RBI. And of course, not to sound like a broken record, there are conflicts of interests in the recent financial inclusion and banking selection advisory committees appointed by the RBI.
All of the above in short, show that there is an accountability deficit, especially concerning lobbying with the financial sector regulator. Concrete action is therefore needed to make such lobbying more transparent and accountable and here again the buck stops with the RBI in the financial sector and it must show a clear actionable way forward—so that it is not only becomes accountable but is also perceived to be accountable, by the people at large!
ii There has been no lady Governor to the best of my knowledge
iii Those of you who are interested in getting more information on this, may contact me at and I would be most happy to share whatever evidence I have on hand from global experiences
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(Ramesh S Arunachalam has over two decades of strong grass-roots and institutional experience in rural finance, MSME development, agriculture and rural livelihood systems, rural and urban development and urban poverty alleviation across Asia, Africa, North America and Europe. He has worked with national and state governments and multilateral agencies. His book—Indian Microfinance, The Way Forward—is the first authentic compendium on the history of microfinance in India and its possible future.)