The 35-year-old Ling Rinpoche, one of the most revered spiritual leaders of Tibetian Buddhist tradition, has alleged that some fraudsters have created a duplicate Facebook page under his name to defraud his followers in the name of raising funds to fight COVID-19.
The Crime Branch of Delhi Police has lodged an FIR and is investigating this case.
“By creating an identical Facebook page, fraudsters sent fake messages to Buddhist followers across the globe and ask them to join,” Bhisham Singh, DCP, Crime Branch (Cyber Cell), Delhi Police, said.
“Once they joined, they asked the followers to pay money for various charitable works in the wake of COVID-19 spread. That’s how they tried to illegally raise money in the name of Rinpoche,” Singh said.
According to Buddhist tradition, Rinpoche is the reincarnation of 14th Dalai Lama‘s principle teacher who passed away in 1983. His permanent residence is in Dharmasala (Himachal Pradesh) but presently he is residing in Chhattarpur in Delhi since March 24 due to national lockdown.
While talking to Outlook, Tenzin Khentse, Rinpoche’s secretary, said that his office received several communications from Buddhist followers who said that they contributed money for Rinpoche’s social initiatives for poor people.
“We became doubtful when these followers informed us that first they got messages to join the Facebook page. Our office never sends any such message as this application has been deactivated in our original Facebook page,” Khentse said.
He informed that the first instance was reported in 2018 when donations were asked for various social activities. For instance, in December 2018, a fraudster asked for donations from one of the followers for the alleged construction of a monastery. The said fraudster also provided his bank account number with the details of which have been provided in the FIR.
Followers were alerted by putting a disclaimer on the original Facebook page. An alert was also sent to Facebook. Despite that, a couple of more instances reported. The recent one was in April when people reported that they were asked money to fight COVID-19.
Khentse said, “Followers get very impressed when they believe that they have got a message from His Excellency’s Facebook account to join the group. That’s how they dupe them.”
“As a spiritual leader, who holds a position of trust and authority, among Buddhist devotees in India and abroad, many of his followers are vulnerable to financial exploitation by agreeing to make donations to fraudulent online sites or accounts on social media platforms using his name, title and image,” the FIR said.
Khentse, who is a complainant in the FIR, said that when these fraudulent Facebook accounts were traced online, it was found that the image and information on the page appeared exactly the same as our official page.