Financial fraud targeting KSEB customers on the rise

A seemingly innocuous SMS about an unpaid electricity bill has turned the life of a college teacher from Kumaranalloor in Kottayam district upside down in just a fortnight.

She fell for the message, made to look like a genuine one from the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and ended up a victim of an online fraud that has left her poorer by ₹1.10 lakh.

On February 14, the college teacher received an SMS, warning that power supply would be disconnected in the event of non-payment of bill. “On contacting the number in the message, a man in fluent English and claiming to be from KSEB told me very gently that owing to some technical issues, the payment has not been credited. To clear it, I was asked to make a token online payment of ₹10,” she said.

The teacher was then asked to download a screen sharing app from Play Store and go to the KSEB ‘Quick Pay’ facility. The scamster even gave her consumer number further winning her trust. She was made to pay ₹10 using the debit cards of two different banks and a credit card, on the pretext that the message from the bank acknowledging the payment was not forthcoming without which the glitch could not be resolved.

She then received an OTP message for a credit card payment of ₹5,000, that she mistook for ₹50,000. “At that point, the man made a mistake as he told me the correct figure and I realized that my phone had been hacked. They had access to all my card credentials and had withdrawn ₹1.10 lakh by then from two different accounts. One of the accounts had our life’s savings for our only daughter’s wedding,” she said. The panicked teacher froze all her accounts and cards, changed her phone and her online credentials.

But, that did not stop the scamsters from calling up her husband and tracking down her house using her Aadhaar card-linked second SIM, which she used only for giving assignments to her students. “On February 15, a man with a mask and helmet hiding his identity visited our home on the pretext of delivering my new ATM card. He spoke Malayalam unlike the scamsters over phone who either spoke English or Hindi. He wanted the OTP sent to my second number to deliver the package, which I found suspicious as banks never asked for OTP for any service,” she said.

When she said that she would call the bank to verify, he rushed out with the package and sped away on a motorcycle driven by another guy. The teacher has since lodged two petitions, including one with the cyber cell.

With similar online frauds targeting its customers becoming rampant since November last, the KSEB has lodged a petition with the State Police Chief. “We keep getting complaints, which we forward to the cyber cell. They seem to be using different numbers every time though the modus operandi remains the same. Previously, the messages warned of power disconnection at night. Since we started alerting customers that we never disconnect power after 3 p.m., the scamsters have changed to a 24-hour time frame for ‘disconnection’,” said KSEB authorities.

The KSEB has also addressed the lacuna in their Quick Pay mode that previously gave easy access to consumer number of clients on feeding mobile numbers. Widespread awareness campaigns are also being held over social media and conventional media alerting people against the fraud.

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Printable version | Sep 1, 2022 12:35:45 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/financial-fraud-targeting-kseb-customers-on-the-rise/article65189940.ece