homeinformation technology NewsBeware! That unpaid power, telecom bill payment message on your phone may be a scamster’s trick

Beware! That unpaid power, telecom bill payment message on your phone may be a scamster’s trick

Beware! That unpaid power, telecom bill payment message on your phone may be a scamster’s trick
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By Akriti Anand  Jun 23, 2022 4:16:02 PM IST (Updated)

Have you received any text message regarding payment of your previous electricity bill? Beware, it can be a scam. An expert said fraudsters are changing their way to scam people to "look more realistic" and so, people need to up their guard against them. Read on know what one should do to avoid falling trap to scammers.

A week ago, Rahul received an SMS demanding that he pay his previous month's electricity bill. The message said power supply to his house will be disconnected if the dues are not paid. It also asked him to contact an "electricity officer" on a private number mentioned in it. Rahul, who didn't remember whether he paid the bill, called the number and as soon as the person who answered started speaking, Rahul was quick to understand that it was a scam. Later, he sighed: "I got a little fooled".

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Gursshheen Gahllen, a journalist based in Nagpur, said the "scammers posed as MSEDCL (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited) workers and contacted consumers on WhatsApp regarding their pending bill payments". She said the scammers also "urged the consumer to pay it online and when they agreed, they were directed to a personal Gpay account". Recalling the incident, Gursshheen said she was later contacted by another person and said if she doesn't want to pay the amount online, then they would connect with her over a call and seek her card details. After this, she didn't waste a minute before taking to Twitter.
One user even said he received a "scam message" and the "caller was trying to get me to install TeamViewer app to take over the device". What was shocking here was that the user "didn't have any electricity connection" in his name. Another user said while the scams are happening in Mumbai, "calls (are) being dialed from Bengal. (sic)"
As social media got flooded with fraudulent messages, electricity departments, telecom companies and police in different states sprung into action to spread awareness about such fraudsters' modus operandi. They even responded to people who took to Twitter, telling them to file complaints.
Responding to a user who posted about receiving a fraudulent SMS from a "regular mobile number", JioCare said, "This SMS appears to be a Fraud/Scam SMS. Jio never asks you to call any mobile number for the submission of any documents. Please do not call such numbers as calling these numbers may harm your account’s safety."
"In addition, whenever Jio sends communications to you via SMS, you will always see the sender ID will contain the word ‘Jio’. Eg JioNet, JioHRC, JioPBL, JioFBR. Hence, if the sender ID does not contain the word “Jio”, please exercise caution before you respond to such messages," it said.
The Mumbai Police also advised a user to not "entertain such messages. They may be fraudsters. Request you to report the matter at your nearest police station for necessary action".
Tata Power told a customer, "Dear consumer, as checked above SMS is a fraudulent message, which does not belong to Tata Power. Please do not contact on provided contact no or share any details. Kindly ignore the same."
Here are some basic steps to avoid being scammed:
  1. Verify the SMS source
  2. Do not pay bills from untrustworthy sources
  3. Do not install any apps that allow you to share your screen with others, through external links
  4. Beware of making payments to private accounts
  5. Do not call or click on the link provided in the message
  6. Do not contact on provided contact no or share any details
  7. Whenever telecom companies or electricity boards send an SMS, you will always see the sender ID. For example, for Jio, one can see this in the senders' name — JioNet, JioHRC, JioPBL, JioFBR. Hence, if the sender ID does not contain the word “Jio”, one should exercise caution before responding
  8. Check the app or call the board/authority concerned to verify. Once you enter the consumer number in your UPI app or Gpay, as and when your new bill is generated, you'll get the notification in the app itself. It's better to pay from the app
  9. There's a facility to disable transactions — whether online or through ATMs. There's a toggle button. Enable only when you want to make a transaction. Or set up an online transaction limit
  10. (Credit: @MahaCyber1) (Credit: @MahaCyber1)
    Scammers won't stop, so be your own guard!
    Being vigilant, aware and having basic knowledge of technology is the only key to avoiding falling victim to these scams. Reading the above messages by authorities, one can easily figure out that the onus is primarily on oneself. This is because, at some point, the scammers need their target to step into the picture and share details like OTP or make the desired payment.
    "It's like you are putting a lock to your home and I am not breaking it actually, I'm pampering your mind and making you do it. How secure is the lock, it doesn't make sense then...only way to counter this is awareness." said Benild Joseph, an author and security researcher.
    Overconfidence, cyber literacy rate and new modus operandi is the problem — Mukesh Choudhary, a cybercrime consultant to the Jaipur Police
    'Be tech-savvy or stop using technology entirely'
    Experts say the modus operandi of the scammers will keep changing, but the basic security against it doesn't. Therefore, people need to be aware of the technology to avoid any untoward incidents.
    "People should understand and be tech-savvy...either you stop using the technology or you adopt it or you have to learn. People are not ready to learn also. If you don't learn, you'll be a victim someday," he said. "Sit near a tech-savvy guy and learn how to do something you don't know," Mukesh Choudhary said.
    Choudhary further advised users to first check to whom the amount is being paid and think twice before transferring money to someone. "If you are going to pay someone, then whom are you going to pay? Are you paying a department or a personal account? This is not being checked. If someone is asking you to pay over call and you don't know the person, think twice."
    Don't look for just OTP in a message, sparing five seconds might safe your money
    "We receive a message for OTP, but we look for the OTP only. There are five lines which will take only 10 seconds to read...If you don't read these five lines, then how will we know what this OTP is for and for how much amount...people are not following good habits," he said.
    In the era in which technology is developing at the speed of light, the vision of "Digital India" must not fade away due to the rise of the scams. People must remain aware, be keen-eyed and think twice, even thrice before making any kind of transaction.
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