Vivek Desai, 21, an electrical engineering student, was surprised when he got a missed call from Pakistan with the country code +92. When he called back, the person said he represented the service provider and wanted his personal details. He claimed Vivek had won Rs 25 lakh prize money in a mobile draw. That is when he realised the call was fishy and disconnected it.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has received numerous complaints from subscribers like Vivek who have been contacted by fraudsters phishing for personal details. Callers who return the missed call end up paying substantial extra charges and also get ensnared by fraudsters trying to gain access to the customer's personal details.
Trai recently sent a letter to service providers asking them to protect the interests of consumers. Service providers have drafted an advisory for subscribers asking them to be cautious. Trai says most of these calls originate from Pakistan(+92), Sierra Leone (+232) and Belarus (+375).
Homemaker Minaben Patel, 55, said, "My son is in Australia and daughter in the US. Sometimes my son calls using an international calling card, which starts with the number 232. At such times, I cannot help but call back wondering if it is my son. I have given a written complaint to the service provider."
"People from Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh - states with a large expatiate population - have reported most complaints," said an official of a telecom operator. "It is a huge racket."
"Vodafone is aware that fraudulent communications, especially emails and SMS, are being sent to members of the public, purporting to be official correspondence from, or on behalf of, Vodafone, using the Vodafone name and/or brand," an official spokesperson for Vodafone said. "Vodafone advises members of the public to exercise caution with any request to provide any personal or confidential information as most often these numbers may be international numbers attracting ISD call/ SMS rates."
Airtel has also issued an advisory for customers.