‘One ring phone scam’ hits J&K, police warns against missed calls robbing users

Recently, the people of the state have started received late-night missed calls from unknown numbers after which if they return the call their phone balance gets robbed

The call centre employees would contact potential customers and convince them to borrow huge sums of money using multiple apps. Police said the call centre employees were trained to "abuse, defame and blackmail" victims to recover borrowed money with interest.

Amid all the coronavirus trouble that the state is already facing, the Jammu and Kashmir police have now got the controversial case they are calling “One ring phone scam”.

Recently, the people of the state have started received late-night missed calls from unknown numbers after which if they return the call their phone balance gets robbed. The calls get cut after one ring.

According to the police, the scammers allegedly use system-generated numbers that largely carry ISD codes of West Asian countries.

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“The racketeers may be employing West Asian country codes to mislead J&K residents into thinking that the call may be from relatives or friends using a different number. However, the scammers have also been using system-generated numbers with domestic codes,” police told ThePrint.

However, in the case of prepaid customers, when they call back on the unknown number, their balance gets deducted or, in some cases, their mobile data allocation is completely consumed.

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For post-paid users, the bill comes of hundreds of rupees. People have also reported that the alleged scammers engage their victims in “trivial talk” about lotteries and credit cards to keep them on the line longer.

Till now around 500 complaints have been registered with the police and the cyber cell is looking into the possibility of a major data breach of customer databases maintained by telecom service providers.

“It is possible there might have been a breach of data at some level. We are looking into the matter,” said a senior police officer.

In the wake of these scams, the cyber police department has issued an advisory asking people to not ring back if they receive such suspicious calls.

They suspect that the scam may be larger than this and later maybe used to get access to people’s bank accounts that are sometimes linked to the phone numbers.

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Explaining the nature of the scam, Tahir Ashraf, J&K Cyber Police chief said, “Preliminary investigations suggest that the ‘One Ring Phone Scam’ is a global scam. We have received over 500 distress calls from across Kashmir. In fact, victims from Doda, Poonch and even Jammu made distress calls. We have launched an investigation, coupled with a massive awareness programme, to make people aware of the scam.”

Adding that the system-generated calls are “almost impossible” to trace, he urged people to report this to their telecom service providers.

Answering where the scammers got the numbers from, Ashraf said that a lot of companies have these data such as true caller, or places where people shop which collects this data and may sell it.

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