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Maharashtra cyber cops bombard citizens with messages to curb online frauds

Amid growing cases of people being duped under the pretext of unpaid power bills or KYC, officials start pushing messages to mobile users to raise awareness; 2 crore SMSes sent

Scamsters send bulk messages to people saying their electricity supply will be snapped or bank accounts blocked. Representation pic

To counter frauds committed on citizens under the pretext of unpaid electricity bills or pending KYC, the state government has begun sending mass messages to the public to raise awareness. Maharashtra Cyber, the nodal agency for cyber security and cybercrime investigation for the state, has tied up with telcos like Jio, Airtel and Vodafone in this effort to tackle online cons who have been misusing the bulk the messaging facility to dupe the public.

Maha Cyber officers said they took to sending mass messages after observing the latest trend of cybercrimes. Of late, crooks have been randomly sending messages to citizens saying their power supply will be snapped due to non-payment of bills. Those who panic and respond to these messages are told to download the AnyDesk app that gives full control of their mobile phones to another person. They also ask the victims to pay Rs 10, Rs 20 or Rs 30 to avoid disconnection.  “Once a customer fills details of his/her cards or bank accounts, the cybercriminal gets full access to those data and steals their money,” a Maha Cyber officer said.

Similarly, criminals often send messages to citizens saying their bank accounts would be blocked due to pending KYC. “People get scared and dial the number given with the message and end up losing money,” said the officer. In the past week, dozens of FIR were registered in Mumbai about electricity bills and banking frauds. In one case, an Andheri resident lost Rs 13 lakh. 

“We are now starting this focused awareness campaign using mass smsing. It’s now focused in the sense that it would cover a particular and latest modus operandi of the cybercriminals,” said Madhukar Pandey, ADG, Maharashtra Cyber. All the subscribers of Aitel, Jio and Vodafone will receive messages asking them to stay alert about cyber frauds. According to Maharashtra cyber, since Saturday afternoon, around 2 crore messages have been sent out by service providers. “We plan to send such messages on emerging themes every forthright,” Pandey added.

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