Beware of hoax SMS says Airtel

Bharti Airtel posted an advisory on their website, advising subscribers to beware of certain ‘Unsolicited fraudulent SMS’s’ circulating on the network. According to the Airtel disclaimer, the recent chain of messages informs recipients that they have ‘won a prize and need to call to collect their prize’. On calling the number in the text message, subscribers are billed a high amount (up to Rs. 500/min). Airtel said they noticed these SMSs in one of their circles and are advising subscribers to ignore them. Airtel also warned that replying to such SMSs could result in viruses being downloaded on the subscriber’s phone.

After spam and phishing mails, spam SMSs are making their presence felt. Such SMS hoaxes are not a new phenomenon in India and cash in on the recipient’s incredulity by making use of ‘get rich quick’ themes and ‘free gifts’ to allure mobile phone users.

Frauds like these are a type of Premium Rate Service Fraud (PRS), using SMSs instead of phone calls. In this type of fraud, subscribers are asked to call on a number by using pretexts like ‘lottery winnings’, ‘free gifts’, or, as in this case; that they have won a prize. Once subscribers make the call, it is disguised as a Premium Rate Service (PRS) number and the subscriber is charged an exorbitant amount.

So what steps can be taken to combat this nuisance? There is not much one can do it seems, though posting advisories on the website is one way. Sending warning messages to subscribers as soon as such a message or call is detected in the circle is another way.