On 9 November 2023, an Alt News journalist received a request from an X user to look into the authenticity of a donation drive by a user named Ritika Annie, who claimed to run an animal welfare body named ‘Helping Hooks’. We were alerted that this X account had been using the name and photos of an Instagram user.
When we matched the photos of Ritika Sheoran on Instagram with those posted by X user Ritika Annie, we found that they were the same. We contacted Ritika Sheoran and she responded to us by saying that she did not run the X handle @GoneGirlAnnie. She did not have an X account at all.
We also noted that the premium subscribed X handle @GoneGirlAnnie was initially being run by a user named Annie Thakur, which was later changed to Ritika Annie. The bio of this account said, ‘Co-founder at Helping Hooks Animal Welfare Society.’ We found @HelpingHooks on X. As per its bio, it is a ‘registered NGO based in Uttarakhand, India’ which works in animal welfare and wildlife rehabilitation. Its activities include rescuing, feeding and rehabilitating animals.
So, our initial investigation revealed that the account ‘Ritika Annie’ was not only using someone else’s images but also their name. Besides the name ‘Ritika Annie’, the account had also used the name ‘Annie Thakur’. The Gmail ID mentioned in the bio was ‘[email protected]’.
At the time of this story being written, the account @GoneGirlAnnie does not exist and all the tweets shared by the account @HelpingHooks have been deleted. The last profile photo of @GoneGirlAnnie before it was deleted, which can be seen in this archive, is a photo uploaded on Instagram by Ritika Sheoran in October 2022.
We also found that in December-January, the account named Ritika Annie changed its name and handle at least twice, to @SaveAIndie and @AnamikaThakurr. When we checked the replies given to the @GoneGirlAnnie handle by using Twitter (X) advanced search, we found that both these handles (@SaveAIndie & @AnamikaThakurr) appeared in search results. This shows that the handle was changed but the X account was the same. We archived the changes made in these accounts. It can be seen in the source code of these archives that the ID number (identifier) of the profile is the same, as changing the handle and name of the profile does not change its ID number.
We then looked into some images of stray dogs that the page had posted and found that those too were taken from an Instagram account called @pawdiarieswtaniishi.
The Instagram account released a statement addressing the above where they clarified that they had got nothing to do with ‘Ritika Annie’ or ‘Helping Hooks’.
View this post on Instagram
Once we sensed something amiss, we started keeping an eye on the X user, Ritika Annie. We noted that the account had posted a prescription of a veterinary hospital named Vets Now, run by Dr Sawan Kumar, which had the name ‘Helping Hooks’ mentioned in it as the pet owner.
We contacted Dr Kumar on the number given in the prescription. When we explained to him why we were interested in the activities of ‘Helping Hooks’ and that we suspected some wrongdoings, he told us that two men named Sandeep Mandal and Uttam Mallik frequently visited the hospital as representatives of ‘Helping Hooks’. Dr. Sawan shared an Instagram reel with us which he said had been sent to him by Mandal with a request to like, share and comment on it. The reel was posted on Instagram by Uttam Mallik and Sandeep Mandal was tagged in it. Dr. Sawan identified the two men in the reel as the ones who used to visit his hospital as representatives of ‘Helping Hooks’.
Donation Drives/ Fundraisers
When a user shared a screenshot (attached later in the story) of their X DM containing Sandeep Mandal’s phone number with us, we did a reverse search of that phone number, and two cases of fundraising came up in search results.
On June 26, 2021, a user named Manish Singh tweeted two pictures and wrote that he was raising funds for an X user named @Sandeep_Manan, whose mother’s health condition was critical and his father had died. Sandeep Mandal’s mobile number was given in the contact number of this fundraiser. On performing a reverse image search on the photo in this tweet, we found that the photo was taken from a drive on crowdfunding website Ketto. In this fundraiser, Sandeep Mandal raised funds for his widowed mother, Mamta Mandal.
I’m raising funds for @Sandeep_Manan family, Mother’s health is very
critical after father’s death.
Please help and amplify 🙏
— Manish Singh 🇮🇳 (@ManishSp8076) June 26, 2021
Ketto has also tweeted this fundraiser several times from its official handle.
“I lost my father to #COVID19 & now my mother is battling COVID Pneumonia. Her condition is critical & she is on 70-80% ventilator support. I cannot afford her medical expenses & request you all to please help us.”
— Ketto (@ketto) July 14, 2021
A X user, Pankaj Kumar, had shared this mobile number on X on February 13, 2022 while talking about an incident of fraud that had happened to him. Kumar wrote that someone cheated him by posing as a journalist named Yukti Mishra. After receiving funds from him, the user blocked him and changed the name and handle of Twitter account to Prachi Sharma (@PrachiGuddy). In this case, Yukti Mishra had raised funds by saying that the condition of Sandeep Mandal’s mother was serious. In this X thread, Pankaj had tweeted Sandeep Mandal’s mobile number and part of the conversation with Yukti Mishra.
DP; Name everything is Changed. I am capable enough to file case and track her down. Biggest mistake she made was sharing Paytm no.
But we all stop just to think that who will go and file case for 5000rs.
I am still thinking over it pic.twitter.com/xpkWPtOygn
— P@nkaj (@PKT3306) February 13, 2022
‘Helping Hooks’ — ‘Ritika Annie’ — ‘Sandeep Mandal’: A Bottomless Pit of Deception
Alt News’s in-depth investigation revealed a mind-boggling network of social media pages/ accounts weaving a complex web of deception and manipulation, and almost all of them somehow led us to one name: Sandeep Mandal.
Being an NGO, Helping Hooks also often ran donation drives on its X account. The user Ritika Annie, claiming to be the co-founder of the organisation, did the same. Helping Hooks’ official account would often retweet and quote her tweets. Here are some screenshots of their donation drives.
An X user, Sandeep Thapar (@sandythapar), donated Rs. 1000 to Helping Hooks on December 14, 2023. Before donating the amount to the NGO’s official UPI ID, donatehelpinghooks@okaxis, which is often plugged by its co-founder Ritika Annie, Sandeep Thapar tweeted to confirm the UPI ID. The ‘Verified Name’ for the UPI ID showed ‘Sandeep Mandal’. After donating the money, the user shared the screenshot of the same and it showed that the amount had been transferred to an account of Sandeep Mandal.
Helping Hooks replied to the user, thanking him and acknowledging his donation.
We were also contacted by some users who directly connected to Ritika Annie/Annie Thakur via her Twitter DM for making contributions and she sent them the payment details. There as well, under bank account details, the name Sandeep Mandal appears.
However, in the above DM exchange, the contact number shared with the donor is not the same as the mobile number the organisation and Ritika Annie displayed on their Twitter banners. The above mobile number ends with ‘8449’, when a user tried to donate to this number, the name ‘Sandeep Mandal’ showed up.
We looked up the NGO’s registration details and we found that the names of three individuals were mentioned as ‘Members’. They are Uttam Mallick (president), Sandeep Mandal (treasurer) and Suraj (member). The NGO was registered on October 19, 2023.
Even though Ritika Annie claimed to be the co-founder of the organisation, her name did not feature in the company details.
Now that our investigation showed that ‘Ritika Annie’ or ‘Annie Thakur’ was not a real person but a ‘catfish’ account using the name and images of someone else to create a fictional personality on social media, we looked further into where the donations were going if the supposed co-founder of the NGO did not exist.
On running a keyword search for ‘Sandeep Mandal’ on X, we found that many interested donors for Helping Hooks expressed their doubts when they did not see Ritika Annie’s name or the organisation’s name in the account details while making a payment. All that they could see was the name of Sandeep Mandal.
We tried to find out if any other account was using the name Sandeep Mandal.
1. Smita Mandal
We found a tweet by a user named Amit Singh Rajawat (@satya_AmitSingh) from November 27, 2021, where he quoted a now-deleted tweet, asking his followers to donate, and shared details on where to donate.
We found an archive of the deleted tweet which was made by Smita Mandal (@SmitaMandal089). She tweeted that her mother had been suffering from kidney failure and lung infection. She shared a Ketto link asking people to donate and help her mother get the treatment she urgently needed. The tweet was shared on November 26, 2021.
On opening the Ketto link, it shows that the name of the campaigner was Sandeep and that of the beneficiary was Janki Devi.
The account number and the mobile number mentioned in Amit Singh Rajawat’s tweet seeking donations for Smita Mandal’s fundraiser were the same as the ones ‘Ritika Annie’ shared seeking donations for ‘Helping Hooks’.
The only difference was in the titles of the two fundraisers but the ‘about’ section was identical with only differences in the names of the beneficiary’s son and the amount required. While Raj Singh’s fundraiser said the required amount was Rs. 5,00,000, Sandeep’s fundraiser said the target was Rs. 7,00,000.
We noticed that the image of the beneficiary Janki Devi in Raj Singh’s fundraiser is the same as the elderly woman who could be seen in the screenshot attached to Smita Mandal’s tweet.
Furthermore, we came across a tweet by a user named Raj Kumar Singh (@SOMVANSHIS) that said: “@ketto Hi, I am raising funds for “My Mother Is Suffering From Kidney (renal) Failure. Share and donate”. The tweet also carried the link to the same fundraiser as mentioned above. The tweet was shared on November 2, 2021, over 20 days before Smita Mandal’s tweet.
— Raj Kumar Singh (@SOMVANSHIS) November 2, 2021
Raj Kumar Singh (@SOMVANSHIS) tweeted on December 30, 2021, alleging that Sandeep Mandal had raised 6.27 lakh impersonating as Janki Devi’s son and also withdrew the money while the beneficiary in question, Janki Devi, received nothing.
Ketto team accounts manager refuses to.file case of 420 on that fraud Sandeep mandal raising and withdrawal money on my mother’s name and ketto team without proper ref check transfer the funds great it is straight case of negligence and owners have no informations ?
— Raj Kumar Singh (@SOMVANSHIS) December 30, 2021
2. Dipika Mallik
We ran a relevant keyword search on X and found several tweets flagging the account by the name Dipika Mallik who had falsely shared a Ketto fundraiser claiming it to be for her son.
In October 2021, a user named Shilpa Badgujar (@ShilpaBadgujar) started tweeting about her son Kiansh’s hearing loss and the medical treatment that he required. She also mentioned that the surgery he required would cost around Rs 30 Lakhs. She tagged Sonu Sood’s charity organisation in almost all of her tweets about her son.
On January 11, 2022, Dipika Mallik tweeted the same images of the child and the documentation about his medical diagnosis. In her caption, she mentioned the same diagnosis of the child as mentioned by Shilpa Badjugar and proceeded to add a Ketto link.
In the documentation shared by both the accounts, the child’s name can be seen mentioned as ‘Baba Kiansh Badjugar’, however, the details in the fundraiser shared by Dipika Mallik mentioned the beneficiary’s name as ‘Baba Kiansh Mallik’.
Several users on X pointed out this fake fundraiser to Ketto who then released a statement that the actual father of the beneficiary visited Ketto office with all the required documents hence the money raised by Dipika Mallik would be transferred to the Badjugar family.
Before this, Dipika Mallik had shared an update on the fundraiser complaining that Ketto was not allowing them to withdraw the money and hence she would refund everyone’s donations. She shared a number on which donors can contact her for a refund. We checked the number on Truecaller and interestingly it showed that it belongs to Dipika Mandal. However, the number seems to be registered under Dipika Mallik’s name on Google Pay.
Fact-checker Sahban (@someone_404) tweeted a thread on December 19 exposing the above Ketto donation fraud carried out by the now-deleted profile ‘Dipika Mallik’. The first tweet of the thread carried a screenshot of a tweet by ‘Ritika Annie’ from December 18. In the tweet, the ‘catfish’ account could be seen sharing bank account and UPI details, seemingly for donation purposes. The account holder’s name said: ‘Dipika Mallik’ and the mobile number mentioned in UPI details is also the same as the above.
— Sahban 🇵🇸 (@someone_404) December 19, 2023
This shows a connection between the scams pulled off by ‘Sandeep Mandal’ and ‘Dipika Mallik’.
3. Mamta Tiwari
Another account which often shares donation requests apparently for underprivileged persons or patients is Mamta Tiwari (@MamtaTiwari01). This account is the only one on the list that is still active.
On May 31, Mamta Tiwari tweeted that a 22-year-old girl needed a sewing machine and that they were raising money for her. In the thread, Mamta mentioned that the girl’s father was an alcoholic and that she and her mother were the breadwinners in a household of five.
User Nishant Nihar (@nishant_nihar) reached out to Mamta on how to help. In the DMs, Mamta shared the account details where the donation is to be made and it can be seen that the account holder’s name says: Shivli Mandal.
In a now-deleted thread on X shared in August 2022, two users claiming to be Shivli Mandal and Abhay Mandal, who are siblings, took to X to ask for donations. The sibling duo mentioned that their father was in a de-addiction centre and due to the family’s unfortunate condition at the moment they needed help to cover their expenses. They also shared a link to a fundraiser at Milaap.
Mamta Tiwari’s ‘Shivli Mandal’ also had a similar story where the father was an addict. However, the contact number shared by Shivli Mandal in her thread from August 2022 did not match the number shared by Mamta Tiwari.
Also, when a user asked Mamta where girl who needed the sewing machine was from, she replied, “Ashok Nagar, Manpur Ojha Bilaspur, Rampur, UP”. However, Abhay Mandal’s thread and the Milaap fundraiser both mentioned their location as Uttarakhand.
We came across a DM exchange from December 7 of this year, where Ritika Annie shared account details on where to donate for Shivli Mandal’s college fees. The bank account turned out to be again that of Sandeep Mandal. The same day, Ritika Annie also shared Shivli Mandal’s semester fee receipt, but the mentioned academic year in the receipt said 2021.
In another instance, Ritika Annie quote-tweeted a fundraiser started by Mamta Tiwari.
4. Anupriya Sheoran
We found another X account associated with Sandeep Mandal called Anupriya Sheoran 🇮🇳 (@AnupriyaSheoran). The handle tweeted about a fundraiser on January 30 for a woman named Poonam Mandal. In the Twitter thread @AnupriyaSheoran also attached a QR code through which donors can donate money to Poonam. We scanned the QR code on Google Pay and found that the banking name linked to this account said “Sandeep Mandal” and also the mobile number associated with the account ended with ‘8449’ like in several other cases.
Poonam, 29 year old woman needs your help for a (Sewing Machine). She has also taken a stitching course. She is a housewife and her husband runs a fast food/Burger shop. They live in a rented house and have two very small babies. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/qFXWO0m6vU
— Anupriya Sheoran 🇮🇳 (@AnupriyaSheoran) January 30, 2024
The above thread about the fundraiser was also retweeted by Mamta Tiwari (@MamtaTiwari01).
We found that the account had shared about the same case two years ago as well. In these two years, nothing, not even Poonam’s age, changed.
In 2022, @AnupriyaSheoran had narrated a similar case asking urging people to donate, and several donors came forward.
8th Machine! #womenempowerment
I have this request pending for many days. Meet Madhavi who is the bread earner of their family. She does her sewing work from home. She has a machine but it’s too old that machine belonged to her dad, her father was also a tailor. (1) https://t.co/Wp1IVExcX4 pic.twitter.com/TsxQIbG4E2
— Anupriya Sheoran 🇮🇳 (@AnupriyaSheoran) July 5, 2022
One more account that amplified the most recent fundraiser tweet by @AnupriyaSheoran is Srijan Sharma (@GovindPyari).
5. Srijan Sharma
We found that Srijan Sharma (@GovindPyari) is another user who regularly amplifies fundraising drives asking people to donate. We found @AnupriyaSheoran commenting on one of @GovindPyari’s tweets urging users to donate.
Further we found a reply to a now-deleted tweet from @GovindPyari where a user commented: “Earlier, about 2-3 weeks ago, “target” amount was 27K👇 of which 9500/- was collected initially, remaining 17500/- came from 1 well-wisher. Though, fees paid was only 15950/-!! 2-3 weeks later, the target amount changed to 33450/-?? and again 17500/- is sought??!! Something wrong!”.
@GovindPyari responded to the above comment saying that the two cases were different.
The user also attached a screenshot of the older tweet from Decmeber 16, 2023, and a student’s fee receipt.
We noticed that the college fee receipt was the same as the one Ritika Annie shared for Shivli Mandal.
Earlier, abt 2-3 weeks ago, “target” amount was 27K👇 of which 9500/- was collected initially, remaining 17500/- came from 1 well-wisher. Though, fees paid was only 15950/-!! 2-3 weeks later, the target amount changed to 33450/-?? and again 17500/- is sought??!! Something wrong! pic.twitter.com/o8vcXnKKIW
— 🇮🇳 RAM (@RamGovindaa) January 7, 2024
We also noticed that a few other handles also shared similar cases where a student was struggling to pay educational fees and also mentioned that the case had been verified by @GovindPyari.
We found a tweet by @Cyber_Huntss from August 2023 which contained a WhatsApp chat screenshot where a supposed student mentioned that they had failed to pay their educational fees, and a QR code was given via which one could donate. While the QR code or the UPI ID mentioned along with it, shivlimandalsmit@okaxis, show up to be invalid or non-existent on Google Pay at present, we noticed that several users had commented under @Cyber_Huntss’ tweet that they have donated.
Several users shared screenshots of their payments, and it can be seen that the payments were made to a bank account with banking name Sandeep Mandal, yet again.
बहुत ही छोटी सी राशि बिटिया रानी अच्छे से अपने एग्जाम दे और अच्छे नंबरों लाए 🙏🙏🥰 pic.twitter.com/VE14MD7ayT
— saffron 🚩🚩 (@King_ashoka_7) August 29, 2023
@GulzarPremi Turned @HelpingHooks
We also found that one of the previous usernames of the page now called NGO Helping Hooks used to be @GulzarPremi. It was only this year that the username of the page was changed to @HelpingHooks.
We found some of the older tweets from @GulzarPremi where the account was often found be attacking the Muslim community.
Below are a few examples —
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