ONLINE FRAUD

Beware! ‘Unpaid electricity bill’ fake message can land you in trouble

Scamsters come up with new trick to steal your money

Beware! ‘Unpaid electricity bill’ fake message can land you in trouble

Tribune News Service

Avneet Kaur

Jalandhar, June 28

After online shopping frauds, fake loan calls/SMS, ATM/Debit cards frauds, KBC lottery scam, international call frauds, now scamsters have come up with a new method to dupe innocent people. The latest online fraud that is doing the rounds is ‘non-payment of electricity bill’.

A snapshot of fake electricity message bill received by a resident. The mobile number mentioned in the messages are not related to any officer of the electricity wing, and neither the link attached with it directs consumer to PSPCL official website.

In the past few days, as many as 22 city residents have received this fake message either through SMS or WhatsApp, asking them to pay their pending bills else their power supply will be disconnected.

Scammers use disposable numbers

The disposable numbers are free virtual numbers found on the Internet (could be both international and national) and are used temporarily to receive any message on them. To obtain such numbers, scammers are following a technique through which they can collect OTPs without having actual SIM cards. Besides, through these numbers multiple accounts can be registered on WhatsApp via which fake calls or messages can be sent easily.

Speaking to Jalandhar Tribune, Pooja Singh, a resident of Rama Mandi, said: “I received an SMS from number – 9314417540. In the message, it was written that my electricity connection will be disconnected tonight at 9.30 pm from the electricity office because my previous month’s bill was not paid. They also provided a number – 7855898216, and it was written that I should immediately call the electricity officer on this number to resolve the matter.”

Advisory for residents

  • Never pick WhatsApp calls received from unknown numbers
  • Never reply to unknown contacts until you don’t know personally
  • Always verify the received details with department concerned or officials
  • Scammers always create a matter of urgency, so never click on malicious links
  • Report any cyber crime at1930 or www.cybercrime.gov.in

“I immediately called my father to confirm if our bill was paid. When he confirmed that there is no pendency, I became alert and checked the message again. When I read the message again, there were many punctuation and spelling errors and from there I got a clear idea that it’s fake,” she added.

Another resident, Gursharan Singh, also received a similar message but from a different number. He said he received a WhatsApp text from 9609024068, and he was asked to call on the number 8598019830 that was said to be of the electricity officer. He said his children alerted him not to call on the number as it’s a fraud. When contacted Palvinder Singh, a city-based cyber expert, said this scam is being operated by professional hackers at the national level. “Apart from Punjab, this gang is active in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Lucknow, Pune and some other areas. A Mumbai-based doctor recently lost Rs 48,000 by calling on the number provided in the message,” he added.

He said when the victim calls up the number, the receiver tries to engage the unsuspecting customer for a long duration to extract personal data. “Electricity Departments in different states had already issued an advisory asking customers to stay aware of this scam,” he further said.

Meanwhile, when checked with Jalandhar cyber cell, they also confirmed that they have received complaints regarding this fraud but no one has reported any financial loss so far.

PSPCL Deputy Chief Engineer, Jalandhar Circle, Inderpal Singh, said: “The Electricity Department never sends SMS or WhatsApp messages regarding pending bills. A public advisory in this regard has been issued and we have warned the consumers not to make calls on the given numbers as it’s not related to any officer of the electricity wing,” he added.

#cyber crime

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