Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fake calls from European numbers annoy citizens


PUNE: A deluge of fraudulent calls from international numbers has become the latest menace to plague Pune. Citizens are complaining of persistent calls from phone numbers bearing the area code of Switzerland, Belarus and other European nations. One person returned one such missed call, only to lose Rs33 from his prepaid cellphone balance.

Jagjit Mane works for an IT company and has clients across Europe. Also, he has uploaded his resume on job portals, due to which he gets interview calls from various countries. "These international calls started about a month-and-a-half ago and have become very persistent. They called me twice. I generally miss these calls and since I work for international clients, I don't know whether the call is from a client or not, so the temptation to call back is high," Vatsa said. And return the call he did, only to be connected to someone speaking in an unfamiliar language. He disconnected , but lost Rs33.

"International call rates to these places are just Rs10 per minute. So there is some racket," Vatsa said, adding: "I went online and saw that many have complained about such numbers," said Mane, who didn't get in touch with his telecom service provider's customer care helpline. Manasi Patwardhan, who works for an NGO, has been getting such calls since October. "I have got calls from Belarus, Switzerland and Belgium. My cellphone displays the caller's location, so I don't answer the call. But it's scary to receive such calls, with so much fear of hacking," she said.

"These calls come at odd hours and it is a big nuisance," said one citizen."Even when we call back, nobody picks up. I haven't checked if money has been deducted from my balance," the person said. For Sandeep Magar, such calls are a daily occurrence. "I put them on the 'do-not-disturb' mode, but the numbers keep changing and it is a big nuisance. I tried calling back once, got an automated reply and disconnected. It is worrisome to receive such calls, especially when we carry out bank transactions on mobile phones," he said.

Nilesh More, assistance commissioner of police (economic offences wing and cybercrime) said they haven't received a single complaint regarding this, but advised citizens not to answer or return calls from unknown international numbers, as there is chance of a data breach. However, he said such instances have never occurred.

Shweta Chawla, forensic investigator and cybersecurity expert, said it is possible, in theory, for a phone to be hacked through a phone call, but stated that there are no confirmed reports of such an instance. "The probability (of hacking) is higher if it is a WhatsApp or Skype call, as then there is access to data; we share a lot of our data with these apps when we install them," she said.


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