An old WhatsApp hoax, assuring prepaid mobile service users of a free recharge has been revived yet again, this time in the context of Harnaaz Sandhu winning the Miss Universe 2021 title. The message asks users to click on the link provided and forward the message to others to avail the offer. However, Newschecker has found this claim to be false.
Newschecker received the same claim by multiple users on our WhatsApp tipline (+91 9999499044) requesting it to be fact-checked.
This is not the first time spam messages have gone viral claiming to provide prepaid mobile recharges for free.
In April 2021, Newschecker had debunked a similar message doing the rounds on WhatsApp that claimed that the government is offering 100 million students a 3-month recharge pack for free to help aid online education.
Earlier in March 2020, during the first pandemic induced lockdown, Newchecker found and debunked multiple such false messages that urged social media users to click on suspicious looking links to avail government funded offers.
The reasons given in such hoax messages spotted over the last few years have ranged from claiming to celebrate COVID-19 vaccination milestones to Mukesh Ambani entering the world’s richest persons’ list.
Online scammers have become sophisticated in the recent past and come up with creative ways to lure the vulnerable and those not very tech-savvy. It is prudent to view content or posts that seem too good to be true with suspicion, as a rule. Clicking dubious-looking links could compromise personal data security and privacy or lead to data or identity theft. Many such links could also potentially infect devices with a malware resulting in phishing & online scams. Readers are advised to never share personal details, especially Aadhaar Card details, bank account number, debit or credit card details, PAN, UAN among others on such sites.
After seeing multiple similar messages shared on WhatsApp asking prepaid users of Jio, Vi and Airtel to click on a link to get “3-month recharge for free”, at first glance we noticed that the message does not declare the individual or organisation offering the free recharge to the users. Neither is there any signing or issuing authority mentioned at the end of the viral message.
The anonymous nature of such messages and untraceable origin got us suspicious about the “offer”. Given that the message is being circulated in abundance and thousands are likely to click on the link provided hoping to get freebies, we wanted to find out who was behind this offer – was it an individual or an organisation, and where were the funds coming from. In the hope of finding more information, we clicked on the link provided in the viral message to see where it would lead us.
The link took us to a web page with the option on a button titled ‘Check Now’ option available on the screen as shown in the photograph below.
Following this, a message appeared on screen, saying ” Anyone in your area National Capital Territory of Delhi can recharge for free!.! Please enter your phone number below ” with space to fill the number.
After filling in a phone number at the given space, another note appeared on the screen asking us to forward the message to five groups or ten friends on WhatsApp. We did the needful and forwarded the message. However, we neither received any notification about the recharge on our prepaid number, nor any further instructions. Instead, as expected we reached a dead end.
Newschecker also reached out to Jio and Vi, and both companies refused to have any knowledge of the free recharge offer as claimed in the viral message. A Jio customer care executive said, “We have no information or update in this regard.”
We also reached out to Airtel and are awaiting their response.
The viral message claiming to provide a 3-month free recharge to users of Jio, Airtel and Vi networks on account of Harnaaz Sindhu winning the Miss Universe 2021 pageant is fake. Readers are advised to not click on the link available in the message or forward it to anyone.
Result: Fabricated News/Incorrect Content
(This article was originally published in Newschecker Bangla)
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