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HomeScam WatchScam Watch: Fake Calls From Telecom Dept Threaten Users With Mobile Number...

Scam Watch: Fake Calls From Telecom Dept Threaten Users With Mobile Number Disconnections

Authors

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

Ruby leads editorial, operations and initiatives at Newschecker. In her former avatar at New Delhi Television (NDTV), India’s leading national news network, she was a news anchor, supervising producer and senior output editor. Her over a decade-long career encompasses ground-breaking reportage from conflict zones and reporting on terror incidents, election campaigns, and gender issues. Ruby is an Emmy-nominated producer and has handled both local and international assignments, including the coverage of Arab Spring in 2011, the US Presidential elections in 2016, and ground reportage on the Kashmir issue since 2009.

What if you received a call from the telecom department warning you that your Aadhaar ID was used to register a mobile number which was found to be involved in illegal activities? Panic is the first and the most instinctive response, one that has been skillfully exploited by scamsters out to hoodwink users off their hard earned money. 

That is exactly what happened in the case of a Bangalore based techie, who lost Rs 3.7 crores to scamsters posing as telecom department and CBI officials.  According to the Whitefield police, the IT professional received an automated call claiming to be from the telecom department, warning that a sim card was registered in the name of the complainant using his Aadhar details and was used for posting illegal advertisements. The call was then transferred to another person posing as an official of the Mumbai police, who said that the complainant had to visit them and the CBI offices in Delhi and Mumbai if he wanted to avoid arrest. This was followed by a call over Skype. Over the video call, a few men dressed in police uniforms, ID cards and even a copy of a fake FIR asked the complainant to transfer money to several accounts so that the money could be audited, reports revealed. The complainant transferred over Rs 3 crore rupees to them before finding out that they were fraudsters.

This is not an isolated incident. 36-year-old media professional Shalini Dogra (name changed) also received one such call while she was at work. “I usually don’t entertain calls from numbers I don’t recognise. This one said it is from the “telecom dept,” so I got curious and pressed 9 as directed. The call was directed to a “customer care number ” and the woman on the other end claimed that she was from the customer care of the telecom dept..which is a vague thing to say since they didn’t mention ministry etc. I didn’t believe it and hung up,” Shalini says.

Several mobile phone users have flagged such scam calls on social media, warning that the genuine nature of the calls can ensnare  the unsuspecting. 

Recounting his experience on social media platform X, Sumit Saurabh writes, “Then the person told me that I need to give my adhar number to him and one OTP will come which I have to tell him so he can remove that number from my account. By that time I was quick enough to check the registered number on my Aadhar on TAFCOP. So it was now clear that he was a fraud. I disconnected  the call. But , the thing is that I was quick enough to guess the fraud which was about to happen. Most of us couldn’t have even guessed it, he was so convincing and IVR made it look so authentic.”

Similarity To Fedex Scam

The scam is eerily similar and bears stark resemblance to the Fedex Scam, that was covered by Newschecker earlier this year. In both cases, the modus operandi is similar- unsuspecting users receive calls from ‘authorities’ and they are informed that their personal information has been misused to commit an illegal activity. In the case of the FedEx scam, it was the misuse of Aadhar card for international couriers that allegedly contained drugs and other illegal substances, whereas most recipients of calls from the “ telecom dept “  are informed that their Aadhaar was misused for registering a phone number that was found to be involved in illegal activities. The rest of the modus operandi are the same- in both cases, the victim is connected to a scamster posing as police, after which they are connected on a video call with the scamsters. They are threatened with arrest and told to transfer the money to ‘audit’, and the victim ends up losing money. 

The similarities compel us to believe that the the same group of people are likely to be involved in both crimes. 

TRAI: Any Calls Claiming To Be From TRAI Potentially Fraudulent

With many such cases being reported, TRAI has issued a clarification, warning against falling prey to the scam. In a press release issued on November 15, 2023, the telecom authority said, “TRAI does not block/disconnect any mobile number of any individual telecom customers. TRAI never sends any message or make any call for disconnection of mobile numbers.”

The statement further read, “TRAI has not authorised any agency to contact customers for such activities and all such calls are illegal and are to be dealt with as per law. Therefore, any call or message claiming to be from TRAI should be considered potentially fraudulent.” Furthermore, the statement directed service providers to take appropriate action against the mobile numbers involved in sending unsolicited communications. 

“The modus operandi is the same as the FedEx  scam, just the approach changes. They usually prey on people who are older, and try to build mental pressure on them. The scamsters force them to part with details under threat of arrest,” said a source in the Delhi police who deals with such cases. 

How to stay safe

Simple place to start would be to check the list of numbers that have been registered on your Aadhaar ID on the TAFCOP portal. TAFCOP (Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection) tells a subscriber the number of mobile connections registered in his/her name using their identification details. It also helps to report the connections which are either not required or not taken by the subscriber. 

While most of these scam calls play on fear factor, the trick, say experts, is to insist on verification. As was the case of Shalini, cross questioning puts off the scamsters, and sends the message that what they say will not be taken for granted. 

Another protocol to follow is to insist that the ‘officer’ provides identification details- name, department, designation. Cross verify these with information available online.  

Fourth is to insist on following the procedure to the T. Insist that they correspond with you in writing, and that necessary notices be sent. Inform them that your lawyer would file an appropriate response. 


Like what you read? Let us know! Drop a mail to checkthis@newschecker.in if you would like us to do a deep dive on any scam that you think needs attention. If you would like us to fact-check a claim, give feedback or lodge a complaint, WhatsApp us at 9999499044 or email us at checkthis@newschecker.in. You can also visit the Contact Us page and fill out the form.

Authors

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

Ruby leads editorial, operations and initiatives at Newschecker. In her former avatar at New Delhi Television (NDTV), India’s leading national news network, she was a news anchor, supervising producer and senior output editor. Her over a decade-long career encompasses ground-breaking reportage from conflict zones and reporting on terror incidents, election campaigns, and gender issues. Ruby is an Emmy-nominated producer and has handled both local and international assignments, including the coverage of Arab Spring in 2011, the US Presidential elections in 2016, and ground reportage on the Kashmir issue since 2009.

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