Airtel CEO Warns Customers of Rise in Cyber Fraud During Second Wave

Says company is introducing new safety features to reduce vulnerability

Airtel CEO Warns Customers of Rise in Cyber Fraud During Second Wave
Airtel CEO Warns Customers of Rise in Cyber Fraud During Second Wave
PTI - 20 May 2021

Amid a massive surge in online transactions during the Covid second wave, Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal on Thursday warned about a rise in cyber fraud and asserted his company is working “relentlessly” to come up with safety features that ensure their customers are not vulnerable to fraudsters.

In an e-mail outreach to customers, Vittal highlighted the latest modus operandi of fraudsters, and drew attention to cyber frauds related to digital payments.

“With the growing second wave and lockdowns across the country, there is a massive increase in online transactions. Unfortunately, there has also been a corresponding increase in cyber fraud cases,” Vittal said.

Sounding out a warning on the kinds of fraud users are likely to face, he said Airtel has developed an “industry first feature” geared towards conducting secure online transactions “without fear of being duped by a fraudster”.

“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. In fact, when in doubt simply call 121,” Vittal advised, in his mail to Airtel subscribers.

Cautioning against fraudsters calling customers pretending to be Airtel employees, he said this could be under the pretext of incomplete Know Your Customer (KYC) forms. The fraudster may request the customer to install an “Airtel Quick Support” app from Google Playstore to allow them to help. As no such app exists on Playstore, when a customer tries to install it, they are redirected to TeamViewer Quick Support App.

“The TeamViewer Quick Support app allows a fraudster to remotely take over the device and accounts associated with the device. So, if the customer installs it, they end up allowing the fraudster entry into all their accounts connected to the device,” Vittal said, urging users to guard against such instances.

Similarly, the fraudster may call or send an SMS claiming to be from Airtel and promising highly discounted VIP numbers.

“As part of the transaction, the fraudster requests a prepayment as a token/booking amount. After receiving these funds, the fraudster ceases all contact with the person and becomes untraceable,” Vittal warned.

Cyber frauds related to payments are also on the rise, due to increase in digital transactions, he noted. “The fraudster calls a customer claiming to be from a bank/financial institution and asks for account details or an OTP to unblock/renew an existing bank account. The details are used to withdraw money from the customer’s bank account,” Vittal said.

The fraudsters also call customers pretending to buy a second-hand listed product from the website, negotiate the price and ask for the customer’s UPI details to transfer money to the account.

“After the customer provides the account details, an SMS link is sent to the customer’s phone, asking them to approve the transaction, which debits money from the account instead of crediting it,” he said.

The Airtel CEO said the company has worked relentlessly to ensure that subscribers are not vulnerable to these fraudsters. “This is why we have recently introduced an industry-first feature called ‘Safe Pay’,” he informed. Safe Pay provides an additional layer of security for every transaction, he added.

“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. If you activate Airtel Safe Pay, you are not vulnerable to fraudsters. To be on Safe Pay, you need to open an Airtel Payments bank account,” Vittal said.

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