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Airtel CEO Warns Customers Against Cyber Frauds Taking Place in India Amid Coronavirus Spread

Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal has warned its customers against the increased number of cyber frauds in India due to a massive growth of online transactions amid the spread of COVID-19 cases. The executive emailed a letter to Airtel subscribers in India to inform them of the two major ways the fraudsters are targeting individuals these days. In one way, Vittal said that the fraudsters call customers pretending to be Airtel employees and dupe them. He added that in another way, cyber frauds are taking place while the customers are making digital payments.

“With the growing second wave of the pandemic and lockdowns in various parts of the country, there has been a massive increase in online transactions. Unfortunately, there has also been a corresponding increase in cyber fraud,” Vittal said in the letter.

He noted that there are common instances where fraudsters pretending to be Airtel employees call or send an SMS message to customers regarding their incomplete Know Your Customer (KYC) form and are asked to install an app called “Airtel Quick Support” from Google Play store. Since the app doesn’t exist on the Play store, the customers are redirected to use the TeamViewer Quick Support app. This allows the fraudster to gain remote access to the customers’ device and take over accounts associated with the device, the executive said.

Fraudsters also call or send an SMS message to customers as an Airtel employee and promise them to offer highly discounted VIP numbers. If a customer agrees, they are asked to make a prepayment as a token or booking amount post which the bad actor ceases all contact with the person.

“Please note that Airtel does not sell VIP numbers on the phone and will never ask you to download any third-party apps. In both instances, please immediately call 121 to confirm,” Vittal said.

In addition to the frauds in which the fraudsters pretend to be an Airtel employee, the executive said that cyber frauds related to digital payments were increasing. These are mostly happening after gaining access to one-time password (OTP) and UPI collect, he said.

Vital also promoted the usage of the company’s ‘Safe Pay’ feature that is applicable on Airtel Payments bank account and is claimed to provide an additional layer of security over digital transactions.

Last month, Vital cautioned Airtel customers about cybercrimes in a similar manner while detailing the company’s investments in spectrum and capacities to improve coverage and user experience. He had said that there had been a “massive increase” in cybercrimes and fraudsters were always finding new ways to prey on users.

According to its latest quarterly earnings reported earlier this week, Airtel’s customer base in India has grown to nearly 350 million users. A large part of that base is vulnerable to cyber frauds due to lack of awareness and knowledge about how fraudsters target users.


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Jagmeet Singh writes about consumer technology for Gadgets 360, out of New Delhi. Jagmeet is a senior reporter for Gadgets 360, and has frequently written about apps, computer security, Internet services, and telecom developments. Jagmeet is available on Twitter at @JagmeetS13 or Email at jagmeets@ndtv.com. Please send in your leads and tips.
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