Pay Bills

Got a message about disconnecting power if the bill isn’t paid? It may be a scam, so be your own protection against scams with these steps

A week ago, Rahul received a text message asking him to pay his electricity bill for the previous month. The message indicates that the power supply to his house will be cut off if the dues are not paid. She also asked him to contact an “electricity officer” on a private number mentioned in it. Rahul, who couldn’t remember if he had paid the bill, called the number and as soon as the person who answered started talking, Rahul quickly realized it was a scam. Later, he sighed: “I was a little mistaken”.

Gursshheen Gahllen, a Nagpur-based journalist, said “the scammers posed as employees of MSEDCL (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited) and contacted consumers on WhatsApp about their pending bill payments.” She said the scammers “also urged the consumer to pay online and when they agreed they were directed to a personal Gpay account.” Recalling the incident, Gursshheen said she was then contacted by another person and told her that if she did not want to pay the amount online, they would contact her by phone and ask for her card details. After that, she wasted no time before taking to Twitter.

One user even claimed to have received a “fraudulent message” and that “the caller was trying to trick me into installing the TeamViewer app to take control of the device.” What was shocking here was that the user “didn’t have a power connection” to their name. Another user said that while the scams were happening in Mumbai, “calls (are) being dialed from Bengal. (sic)

As social media was flooded with scam messages, electric utilities, telecommunications companies, and police in different states sprang into action to publicize the modus operandi of these scammers. They even responded to people who took to Twitter, telling them to press charges.

Responding to a user who posted about receiving a scam text from a “normal cell phone number”, JioCare said, “This text message appears to be a scam/scam text message. Jio never asks you to call a mobile phone number for submission of any document. Please do not call such numbers as calling such numbers may affect the security of your account.”

“In addition, whenever Jio sends you SMS communications, you will always see that the Sender ID will contain the word “Jio”. For example, JioNet, JioHRC, JioPBL, JioFBR. Therefore, if the Sender ID does not contain the word “Jio.”, please exercise caution before replying to such messages,” he said.

Mumbai Police also advised one user not to “entertain such messages. They may be fraudsters. Request you to report the matter to the nearest police station for necessary action to be taken.”

Tata Power told a customer: “Dear consumer, as above, the SMS is a scam message, not owned by Tata Power. Please do not contact the contact number provided or share any details. Please ignore the same.”

Here are some basic steps to avoid being scammed:

  • Check SMS source
  • Do not pay bills from untrusted sources
  • Do not install any application that allows you to share your screen with others, via external links
  • Beware of payments to private accounts
  • Do not call or click on the link provided in the message
  • Do not contact the provided contact number or share any details
  • Whenever telecom companies or power utilities send an SMS, you will always see the sender ID. For example, for Jio, we can see this in the name of the senders – JioNet, JioHRC, JioPBL, JioFBR. Therefore, if the sender ID does not contain the word “Jio”, caution should be exercised before replying
  • Check the application or call the relevant council/authority to verify. Once you enter the consumer number in your UPI or Gpay app, as your new invoice is generated, you will receive the notification in the app itself. It’s better to pay from the app
  • There is a possibility to disable transactions, either online or through ATMs. There is a toggle button. Activate only when you want to make a transaction. Or set up an online transaction limit
  • (Credit: @MahaCyber1) (Credit: @MahaCyber1)

    The crooks won’t stop, so be your own guard!

    Being vigilant, aware and having basic knowledge of technology is the only key to avoiding falling victim to these scams. Reading the above messages from the authorities, one can easily understand that the responsibility lies mainly with oneself. Indeed, at some point, scammers need their target to enter the picture and share details like OTP or make the desired payment.

    “It’s like you put a lock on your house and I don’t actually break it, I pamper your mind and make you do it. How secure is the lock, it doesn’t matter sense then… only way to counter it is awareness.” said Benild Joseph, author and security researcher.

    Overconfidence, cyber literacy rate and new modus operandi are the problem – Mukesh Choudhary, Cybercrime Consultant to Jaipur Police

    “Be tech savvy or stop using tech altogether”

    Experts say the modus operandi of scammers will continue to change, but the basic security against it does not change. Therefore, people should be aware of the technology to avoid any untoward incidents.

    “People should understand and master the technology…either you stop using the technology, adopt it, or you have to learn. People aren’t ready to learn either. If you don’t learn, you will be a victim one day,” he said. “Sit next to a tech-savvy guy and learn how to do something you don’t know how to do,” Mukesh Choudhary said.

    Choudhary further advised users to first check who the amount is paid to and think twice before transferring money to anyone. “If you are going to pay someone, then who are you going to pay? Are you paying for a service or a personal account? This is unverified. If someone asks you to pay on call and you don’t know the person, think twice.”

    Don’t just look for OTP in a message, saving five seconds could protect your money

    “We receive a message for OTP, but we are only looking for the OTP. There are five lines that will only take 10 seconds to read… If you don’t read these five lines, then how will we know what is this OTP for and for how much… people don’t follow good habits,” he said.

    In an era where technology is developing at the speed of light, the vision of “Digital India” must not fade in the face of the rise of scams. People need to stay aware, be discerning and think twice or even thrice before making any type of transaction.