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ALERT: Don't fall prey to SMS fraud

Last updated on: July 12, 2011 11:45 IST

ALERT: Don't fall prey to SMS fraud

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Abhay Rao in Mumbai

"Congrats! Ur mobile number has been selected in ****** Int'l mobile draw UK 2011. To claim ur prize money of 500,000, pounds, contact **** and send ur name, address, email id to claim_dpt@hotmail.com."

"Your mobile number has won 850,000 pounds IN **** Award Promo. Send your name, address and account number to bmwdept2011@live.com."

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However, these are only some of the common spam short message service messages doing the rounds these days.

After email spamming became rather publicised and less effective, fraud gangs have shifted to the more convenient mode of SMS.

Reputed automobile companies such as BMW, Honda, Mercedes, fast moving consumer goods giants like Coke and Reebok, banks, the Reserve Bank of India and the British Broadcasting Corporation are some names fraudsters commonly use to con you.

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Giving out details like your name, address, mobile number and email address may seem fairly harmless.

However, if in wrong hands, these can be used for notorious purposes.

Identity theft, the most common fear overseas, is making its way into the Indian crime domain.

Also, once these fraudsters have your cell number, they send messages which seem to have come from your service provider, asking you to reply for some innocent reason.

This remains another concern.

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BEFORE REPLYING TO THAT ODD SMS, REMEMBER...

  • Lottery winning messages are scams. Irrespective of whatever information is asked for, or, how authentic the email address and phone number seem, don't be fooled.
  • Even basic information like your name, address, phone number and email address can be misused.
  • Job offers through mobile messages are frauds. Do not contact the sender or click on the sent link.
  • Free electronic goods won are scam messages. Once you pay the service tax charges to the given account, you will never hear from the fraudster/s again.
  • Messages with bank links looking like a real website and claiming to be security upgrade procedures, are phishing attacks to get your personal information like account details and password.
  • Complain to the cops. The higher the complaints registered, the easier it is for them to track and shut down fraud rings.

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What happens is that one replies to the message, thinking it's a free message being sent to his/her service provider.

However, these are some hotline numbers where calls are charged at an exorbitant rate of Rs 8-10 a call.

Say, if 50,000 messages are sent by a fraudulent person/gang and even if 1-2 per cent, or, 5,00-1,000 of the recipients respond, the former earn as much as Rs 8,000-10,000 a day.

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According to sources, the cost of sending 50,000 messages would be as low as Rs 1,000-2,000.

But, this is small money compared to what the fraudster can earn if the person is hooked and willing to give more information.

Once a person responds, more messages are sent, seeking bank details to facilitate money transfer. A small transfer of Rs 20,000- 30,000 is sought as remittance.

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The end result: Apart from the loss of money, chances are your bank account is misused in the future as well.

One can approach the police. As a senior police official says, "There are police centres one can approach." However, there are already many such complaints with us, he adds. And, there is little you can do if you have replied to the messages or made international calls.

Calling the international number listed in some texts is again a strict no.

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For, these are commonly used premium rate service frauds, wherein the number is connected to a recorded message and the call is billed at a very high rate.

The important thing to know is that such lotteries don't exist.

 The recent sms scam doing the rounds is about job opportunities in large companies.

The modus operandi is similar.

First, mass messages are sent. If you respond, they seek details and ask for a few thousand rupees to fetch you the job.

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Fake marketing campaigns offering free products (you only have to pay the service tax), work-from-home scams (charge registration fee), bank security upgrade (attempt to steal your password) and foreign job offers (visa fee, legal fee charges) are the most popular ones you should guard yourself against.

Supreme Court lawyer Vakul Sharma explains, "From a legal perspective, such messages are an electronic fraud, making them a cyber crime governed under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

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"Section 66 of the Act covers crimes using computers, people causing inconvenience by seeking one's personal details, phishing attacks and identity theft," Sharma says.

As of now, a regulatory mechanism by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to curb the menace is non-existent, he adds.  

There are numerous innovative and crafty ways these gangs use to get to you. Almost every reputed company's name has been misused.

So, when you get a SMS that seems odd, just hit the delete button.

Do not reply.



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