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The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Airtel, Gopal Vittal, has alerted the customers of the telecom service providers against cyber fraud amid Covid19 pandemic.

“These last few weeks have been amongst the most harrowing and desperate for all of us in India. I do want to promise you that we will do everything in our power to make this most difficult of times a little easier to bear,” Vittal said in a statement.

“One such area we are focusing on to help you is cyber fraud,” he said.

With the growing second wave of the pandemic and lock downs in various parts of the country, there has been a massive increase in online transactions, Vittal said while cautioning the Airtel customers.

“Unfortunately, there has also been a corresponding increase in cyber fraud. I would like to warn you of the kinds of fraud that you could likely face and also introduce an industry first feature that we have developed so that you can make online transactions completely securely, without the fear of being duped by a fraudster,” he said.

First to the frauds that are being perpetrated these days. There are likely to be two ways in which these fraudsters operate:

Vittal said, “Common instances of fraudsters calling customers pretending to be Airtel employees and duping them. If this happens to you, please immediately call 121.”

Such instances include:

EKYC: The fraudster, claiming to be from Airtel, calls or sends an SMS to the customer regarding an incomplete Know Your Customer (KYC) form. He/she requests the customer to install the “Airtel Quick Support” app from the Google Play store to allow him to help. Since no such app exists on the play store, when the customer tries to install it, he/she is redirected to TeamViewer Quick Support App.

The TeamViewer Quick Support app allows the fraudster to remotely take over the device and accounts associated with the device. And so, if the customer does install it, they allow the fraudster into all their accounts connected to the device.

VIP Numbers: The fraudster calls or sends an SMS to the customer claiming to be from Airtel and promises highly discounted VIP numbers. As a part of the transaction, the fraudster requests a prepayment as a token / booking amount. Post receiving these funds, the fraudster ceases all contact with the person and becomes untraceable.

The Airtel CEO said their company “does not sell VIP numbers on the phone and will never ask” their customer to download any third-party apps. “In both instances, please immediately call 121 to confirm. In fact, I would say when in doubt simply call 121,” he said.

Cyber frauds related to digital payments: Due to the increase in digital payments, cyber frauds related to payments are also increasing. These take two forms:

OTP: The fraudster calls the customer claiming to be from a bank/financial institution and asks for account details or an OTP to unblock/renew the existing bank account. The details are used to withdraw money from the customer’s bank account

UPI Collect: The fraudster calls the customer pretending to buy a second-hand listed product from the website, negotiates the price and asks for the customer’s UPI details to transfer money to the customer’s account.

On the customer providing the account, an SMS link is sent to the customer’s phone to approve the transaction which debits the money from the account instead of crediting.

Vittal said: “As I mentioned, Airtel has worked relentlessly to ensure that you are not vulnerable to these fraudsters. This is why we have recently introduced an industry-first feature called “Safe Pay”.”

Avoiding fraud by using Safe Pay: This is simply the safest method of paying online in the country. It provides an additional layer of security for every transaction. So before you actually make a payment, our network intelligence throws up a message asking you to confirm the transaction to the person who is trying to pull the fraud.

“Therefore, if you activate Airtel Safe Pay, you are not vulnerable to fraudsters. To be on Airtel Safe Pay you need to open an Airtel Payments bank account. To open an account or to enable Safe Pay on your existing account click here,” he added.

“With a maximum balance of INR 2 Lakh and attractive interest rate of 6% on deposits from 1 to 2 lakh, Airtel Payments Bank is also a perfect secondary account for all your transactions. You can easily link a UPI app to your account as well,” the Airtel CEO further said.

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