Passwords, OTP, PINS, CVV, Confirmation Codes, Voice Recognition, Fingerprint swap, Iris Match, Face Recognition, Digital Keys, etc., etc….

What not are we doing, going from strength to strength in the field of securing ourselves from all angles. Trying to secure our money, our person and our homes from theft and frauds. But like it has always been, people on the wrong side are always one step ahead of us. They derive new innovative ways to scam us.

Recently I was scammed. In wee hours of the morning, I got a call from a man claiming to be from Airtel. He claimed that my number was near its validation expiry. On my protest that I got no such intimation from Airtel concerning the matter, he told that he was calling me to help me resolve the issue with as minimum pain taken as possible. I agreed as the number is in my family ever since Airtel started handing out Sim numbers and it not only is in the contact list of every person I have ever known, it also holds an emotional attachment for me, as it was my Beloved father’s number. Having it with me is vital to me. I agreed to listen to him, and he gave me a simple set of instructions to follow to secure it for coming ten years. I had some doubts about him, but they were all evaporated the minute he told me to send a set of messages to 121. NOW, we all know that 121 means Airtel, means he is genuine. He sent me a 20 digit pin and asked me to forward it to 121 through my cell. I did. Next, he requested me to confirm it by pressing 1. NOW, here I did a silliness by trusting the man and not reading the message in half sleep and pressed one. Instantaneously my number went blank. No signals. I panicked. I called Airtel and told them the whole issue to which they informed me that I had been duped and these scams are the new in-thing. They notified me that I should immediately stop this number from an Airtel shop or they can extract or spend money from my bank accounts or Credit Card. I got up and ran to the Airtel centre, asking them to block the number.

“Those who have not been stung will hardly fear a bee the same as those who have.”

What is more irritating is their sheer brilliance. What they did is not exactly illegal. Buying a blank sim and then having the number jumped to it is not illegal. The stroke of brilliance used here how easily they made me fall into their trap. Just hearing 121 gave me a false sense of security and follow them blindly. This is just one example, we are all duped and cheated in numerous ways all the time. From the calls coming from NGO’s to help provide medical aid to a half burnt kid who fell into hot oil to the calls from Credit Card companies, asking you to divulge your card details to them as they want to run a security check on your account, we are surrounded by scoundrels.

It has been a month to this incident now. I lost my beloved number, and all my acquaintances had to go through the trouble to reach me on the phone. I immediately had to buy a prepaid sim and have been using it for last one month. Every few days I am making rounds of Airtel offices, asking, requesting and begging them to revive my number. All the security that is the set-up against the thugs became a wall against me. They gave me a series of papers and documents to be acquired and provided. When I questioned them that it was transferred to the thief in a minute, but to me, it is being given with so many troubles they smiled and told: “Ma’am, this is all for your security”. All my bank notifications and important messages are not being received. I had to go to the hospital to get my father’s Death Certificate to present to them and get the number transferred in my name. There are still more formalities to be done. While the thug had a laugh, I am the one who suffered. When I got the monthly bill, I came to know that he had used those two hours with my number to make calls worth Rs 1,000. I will be paying that bill; they won’t return my number until this bill is cleared. I just hope that after all this fiasco I get my number back.

The next day after I was scammed, I got a message from Airtel warning me against such an ongoing fraud, not just me but to many of my friends. I just cursed them under my breath and wondered if I had got it a day earlier I would have been saved so much trouble. Now I am much more prudent and on my guard with calls that claim to be from Airtel. Guess some lessons are learned the hard way. But when it comes to being secure, all this digital security sometimes locks us in rather than locking those thugs out.

Constant Vigilance!