Mumbai lockdown: Cybercriminals try to fleece citizens through power bills

Updated: Jul 01, 2020, 08:02 IST | Shirish Vaktania | Mumbai

As meter readings were not done during the three lockdown months, many Mumbaikars have complained that they have been getting emails to make payments through fraudulent links

This image is used for representational purpose
This image is used for representational purpose

Fraudsters have found a new way to fleece people amid the COVID-19 pandemic through emails about electricity bills. A 31-year-old Worli resident, Amit Pawaskar, who runs Aarey Kendra and is a cybercrime consultant, complained to the cyber police and electricity department after receiving an email asking him to check his electricity bill through a link on Monday.

A Kandivli resident, Ganesh Mapuskar, also received the same mail on Tuesday. The mail had the following text: "With recent global developments, electricity department in India has not taken meter reading for the month of March. Also, it is also not confirmed that meter readings were taken correctly in the month of April. You have to check your current bill....click on link."

Worli resident Amit Pawaskar
Worli resident Amit Pawaskar

Pawaskar said, "I received this mail on Monday evening from perkyfish.com website. I had already paid my electricity bill. When I opened the link, it asked for my consumer number and later I found another link for payment options. I checked the sender website and realised that it was being operated by fraudsters. I immediately disconnected my internet connection and informed the cyber department."

The e-mail he receivedThe e-mail he received

Mapuskar said, "Early on Tuesday, I received a mail from perkyfish.com, it asked me to pay my electricity bill. When I opened the sent link, they threatened me to cut my electricity supply if I don't pay. I checked again and that I had paid my electricity bill only a few days ago. I thought that they must have conducted meter readings and hence are asking for payment. So I opened the link again. When the site asked to enter my debit card number, I contacted the company's customer care and found that the website was fake."

Ganesh Mapuskar, Kandivli resident
Ganesh Mapuskar, Kandivli resident

Advocate Prashant Jhala, who specialises in cyber law, told mid-day that these mails are called unsolicited commercial emails or spam. "Perkyfish.com is a phishing website that cheats innocent people. Fraudsters take you to a fake website through the link where they ask for the debit card number, OTP and many more bank details. If you find any such emails or messages, do not open them and check with your electricity department. As meter readings have not been done during COVID-19, fraudsters are taking advantage. Always check the headers of the mail, never share your OTP and don't use unauthorised websites to make payments."

The BEST, too, has been dealing with various attempts at cheating consumers. "Last month, someone wearing a BEST ID card was visiting homes in Bhayandar to collect payments from BEST electricity consumers. But we don't service Bhayandar. This message had gone viral on WhatsApp. We then instructed all consumers to not entertain such people. BEST never sends employees to people's homes to collect bills. If consumers get emails regarding bill payments, they must first check with us. We are not taking cash payments, consumers can pay bills by dropping cheques at authorised centres," said BEST spokesperson, Hanumant Ghopne.

"Fraudsters always find new ways to con people. Do not open the links in such emails and messages. In case someone falls prey to such schemes, they can register a complaint with us or with the local police," said Senior Inspector Sharmila Sahasrabuddhe of the Bandra Cyber police.

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