Instead of providing ease of life, technology is becoming a disruptor and throwing more challenges at ordinary people every day. Uninterrupted electricity supply is crucial to all our lives today. So, fraudsters have found this a perfect weakness to exploit by threatening a power cut on the fake claim that a bill is unpaid. The message with the threat helpfully has the number of an 'electricity officer' or an app to be downloaded to make things right. This fraud is rampant because people instinctively call the number and get lured into providing more details. We will also see how criminals created over 10,000 polymer fingerprints using Aadhaar data to withdraw Rs14.64 lakh from bank accounts linked to Aadhaar.
Electricity Bill Scam Messages
Many people are receiving messages through SMS or on WhatsApp about paying their dues for electricity supply, failing which the power will be cut by 9.30pm. In today's interconnected world, the disconnection of electric power supply is sure to create panic for a customer.
While these messages started appearing a few months ago in north-eastern states, they are now doing the rounds across the country. Interestingly, none mentions the name of the electric power supplier; they are sent from mobile numbers and not from the authentic SMS header used by the electricity company. Yet, SMS threatens to disconnect the power supply of the customer.
Here is the text of these messages: "Dear customer Your Electricity power will be disconnected. Tonight at 9.30 pm from electricity office. because your previous month bill was not update. Please immediately contact with. Our electricity officer 0000000000 Thank you."
There are a few versions of this message floating around, but people are quick to assume it is an official message from the electricity distributor. On calling the number in the message, they are asked to download a computer sharing app like AnyDesk. Once the victim does this, the 'electricity officer' asks for a passcode to access your mobile. He then asks to make an online payment of dues. Since he has access to your computer screen and is recording what you do, he gets all the information you are keying in to access your account and uses it to siphon off money.
Here is some feedback shared by people who received such messages. In some cases, the electric power supplier has asked not to respond to these fraudulent messages...
A similar fraud is playing out in Kolkata over the supply of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) refills and broadband services. ABP Live recently reported a case where the fraudster obtained all customer details, including bank account information, under the pretext of providing a higher subsidy on LPG refills.
It is important to remember that no service-provider will disconnect any service without providing adequate notice of payments due. So, the next time you receive any such message, delete it. If you have received the message on WhatsApp, you can block and report, report or block the number from which you received it.
Criminals Made 10,000 Polymer Fingerprints Using Aadhaar Data
The Cyberabad police busted a gang of seven that was withdrawing money from bank accounts using polymer fingerprints for Aadhaar verification. The fraudsters downloaded registration documents from the Andhra Pradesh registration and stamps department's official website, IGRS. Using the information, they created polymer fingerprints to fraudulently withdraw Rs14.64 lakh from 149 customers, says a report from Deccan Chronicle
The police seized 2,500 cloned fingerprints, Rs3.4 lakh in cash, 121 SIM cards, 20 mobiles, 13 debit cards, a PAN card, two Aadhaar cards, four biometric fingerprint scanners, three pen-drives containing downloaded land documents, one laptop and other gadgets.
Cyberabad police commissioner Stephen Raveendra told the newspaper that the gang collected the name, Aadhaar number and fingerprints of customers, with which they prepared polymer fingerprints using chemicals. After preparing the fingerprints, they registered with Aadhaar enabled payment system (AEPS) applications and used it to go to the linked bank accounts and find out the balance in them.
Nallagalla Venkateshwarlu alias Venkatesh had joined E-Point India as business correspondent and secured AEPS licence on 4 May 2022. From the next day onwards, his gang used the E-Point application for withdrawing money using the polymer fingerprints. The gang had prepared more than 10,000 fake fingerprints, the police says.
If you have linked your Aadhaar number and bank account, then a combination of your Aadhaar number and fingerprint allows withdrawal of money from anywhere through the services of a business correspondent (BC). Most banks have outsourced the BC operations to third parties.
Fake Recruitment Scam
Gramin Udhyamita Sansthan is an organisation that claims to work under the Union ministry of rural development, for carrying out recruitment for the states of Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana. The Union government has warned that Gramin Udhyamita Sansthan is a fake organisation, created with the sole intent of extracting money from unsuspecting applicants.
Since November last year, the fake organisation has conducted a recruitment drive for the posts of a data analyst and administrative officer in these three states.
"Applicants should be cautious of claims such as vacancies, posts and pay scales made by this dubious organisation and fall into a trap like committing any payment towards refundable security amount for certificate verification or sharing sensitive information including bank account details. Applicants may please note all websites of the Union and state governments are on 'gov.in' domain and not on '.com' or any other spam, concocted or spoof website or false link," the ministry warns.
As we keep pointing out, greed and fear are the two elements used by fraudsters. So, even if you receive any message threatening or luring you, think twice before responding. Better check with the entity in whose name the message is sent. For example, for a message received about disconnecting the power supply to your home, you can always call your electricity supplier and find out the truth.
Stay alert and safe!
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