Freedom 251 Scam: The Rise and Fall of Infamous Smartphone Scam

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Introduction – Freedom 251 Scam

In the land of a billion dreams, the Freedom 251 smartphone was a tantalizing mirage that promised to quench the thirst of millions. Launched in February 2016 by the Indian company Ringing Bells, the Freedom 251 was touted as the world’s cheapest smartphone, priced at a jaw-dropping INR 251 (approximately USD 4 at the time). But as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The Freedom 251 scam left a trail of broken dreams and empty wallets in its wake. So, buckle up as we take you on a rollercoaster ride through the twists and turns of this witty tale of deception.

Freedom 251 Scam

Freedom 251 Phone – Feeding the Hype Machine

The Freedom 251 smartphone was marketed as a game-changer, a device that would bridge the digital divide and bring the power of the internet to the masses. With a 4-inch display, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB internal storage, and a 3.2-megapixel camera, the hardware specifications were quite impressive for the price. People across India, especially those in low-income groups, were thrilled at the prospect of owning a smartphone that was not only affordable but also came with high-end features.

The launch announcement sent shockwaves across the globe, with tech enthusiasts and skeptics alike scrambling to make sense of this seemingly impossible feat. Thanks to the generous amount of hyper generated around the phone, the company claimed to have received over 7 crores (70 million) pre-registrations within a few days of the announcement. It was quite natural that Ringing Bell’s website crashed multiple times due to the overwhelming traffic.

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The Red Flags in Freedom 251 Scam

However, the warning signs were there from the beginning. The launch event of the Freedom 251 phone was delayed several times. Initially scheduled for 18 February, it was pushed back to 19 February, and then again to 21 February. When the event finally took place, the prototype showcased turned out to be a rebranded Chinese smartphone, with the original brand’s logo hastily concealed using correction fluid.

The company’s claims of manufacturing the device in India under the government’s “Make in India” initiative were also debunked, as no such affiliation existed. Moreover, the math simply didn’t add up. Industry experts estimated that the cost of producing a smartphone with the Freedom 251’s specifications would be at least USD 40, making the USD 4 price tag utterly implausible.

Mohit Goel

The Plot Thickens

As the inconsistencies piled up, the Indian government and various regulatory bodies began investigating Ringing Bells and its enigmatic founder, Mohit Goel. It was discovered that the company had no manufacturing facilities, no research and development team, and no clear plan to deliver the promised smartphones. The payment gateway provider for the Freedom 251 website, PayU, also raised concerns about the company’s credibility and withheld the collected funds.

The Great Unraveling

By now, a lot of conspiracy theories regarding Ringing Bells and Mohit Goel had made their way into the market. In the face of mounting scrutiny, the company tried to salvage its reputation by announcing that it would refund the pre-booking amounts and deliver the smartphones on a cash-on-delivery basis. However, this did little to assuage the concerns of the authorities and the public. After several delays, the company claimed to have shipped the first batch of 5,000 units in July 2016, but this was met with widespread skepticism. The few customers who did receive their devices reported numerous issues, including non-functional units and missing accessories.

In order to appear true to the cause of providing every Indian with a smartphone, Goel even sought Government’s help and requested an investment of INR 50,000 crore in his project. Goel reiterated his previous claims related to economies of scale and achieving break-even sooner as more deliveries take place. Of course, the Government of India wasn’t interested and this money never came.

The Final Nail in the Coffin of Ringing Bells

The Freedom 251 scam reached its climax in February 2017, when Mohit Goel was arrested on allegations of fraud and conspiracy. The company’s assets were seized, and the subsequent investigation revealed that Ringing Bells had duped its customers, suppliers, and even its own employees. Freedom 251 scam amount is believed to be around INR 20 crore (USD 2.8 million).

Subsequently, several distributors and dealers across India also filed cases against the company and Goel spent six months in jail. Today, people have realized their folly in trusting a ‘too good to be true’ scheme, Ringing Bells is a gone case with its website down, and Goel is nothing more than a disgraced fraud. Years later, Goel’s name resurfaced in a dry fruit scam and he was arrested again, proving further that Freedom 251 was indeed a fraud scheme from the word go.

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The Aftermath

The Freedom 251 scam left a lasting impact on the Indian tech industry, with many questioning the credibility of start-ups and the effectiveness of regulatory oversight. The incident also served as a cautionary tale for consumers, highlighting the importance of due diligence and skepticism in the face of seemingly unbelievable deals.

Conclusion

The Freedom 251 story is a classic example of the age-old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The allure of a USD 4 smartphone proved too tempting for millions, who were ultimately left with nothing but a bitter taste in their mouths. The scam serves as a reminder that in the world of technology, as in life, if something seems too good to be true, it’s best to approach it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

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