Payments for basic and daily amenities are part of an individual’s routine now. Earlier cash was used to make these payments and the same were made either at the concerned office or the post office, who in turn sent the paid bills and sent them to the respective offices. These payment systems were initially not well run as the banking sector was weak and the general population was not well aware of different modes of payment. However in the current digital age, digitization has hit each and every aspect of our life and that includes the banking system as well. One of the mostar basic requirements for a household is electricity, which although plays a vital role but is not often given much importance, hence upon understanding this criticality fraudsters and scamsters have adopted a new modus operandi for duping people off money by the means of electricity bill of an individual. The victims in these cases are unable to see the potential threat and have lost sums of money to fraudsters and in some cases the victims are clueless even after the crime has been committed. 

The modus operandi of the fraudsters here in is as follows- 

  • The victim first received a SMS text message from the fraudsters under the pretext of unpaid electricity bills.
  • The message generally mentions a link and a mobile no. of a fake electricity officer, the message also has an ultimatum of payment, i.e the electric services will be stopped the same day in case of default of payment.
  • The fraudsters send these messages in the middle of the day so that the victim is lured into a trap at a time of highest vulnerability as during this time of the day people are occupied with their job or even household chores. 
  • The electricity officer who answers the phone will have your name and your home address in order to sound realistic. He will inform you of your defaulted payment and ask you to make the payments using a QR code or a payment link.
  • These links/QR codes are in turn operated by the fraudsters and the payment is directly received by them instead of the electricity board.
  • The fraudsters here take advantage of the vulnerability and the feasibility of the electricity board and their services, also there exists a huge possibility of these fraudsters being assisted by some low ranking personnel of the electricity board in terms of petty corruption.

The instances of these kinds of cases can be seen pan India and it is possible for someone to commit this scam/fraud in Bangalore while sitting in Delhi. One of  the victims of this fraud was duped of nearly Rs 10 lakh as he operated factories and warehouses and believed that bill was due for all of his establishments.  The victims are often helpless and have spent a long time waiting for recovery of the money they were duped off. The commonors can take the following measures and safeguards to prevent falling prey to such frauds.

  • Always check any incoming call’s/message’s Phone no. for spam alerts. 
  • Always ensure payment through safe and official platforms.
  • Always make payments on the official website of the electricity boards.
  • Always keep in touch with the electricity officer of the area to maintain a check.
  • Never make payments on links sent by unknown people, no matter what the purpose may be.
  • Always remain onguard for cyber frauds and exercise basic cyber security protocols. 
  • In case of any instance of potential cyber fraud, contact your nearest cyber crime cell without any delay, majority cyber crimes can be solved in the first 48 hours. 
  • Always make sure to spread the word if you come across   

As citizens of the digital world, it is essential for all individuals to keep a check upon their online activity and also try and understand the vulnerabilities of the same. As it is said defense is the best offense hence it is of paramount and critical importance that we strengthen our defenses against such cyber crimes and frauds, this can be achieved only by spreading awareness and maintaining cyber security at individual as well as organizational level. Biggest weapon of cyber criminals is ignorance and unawareness among the public and this in turn makes us vulnerable to attacks by such criminals/Fraudsters. 

Author – Mr. Abhishek Singh, Research Associate – Policy and Advocacy, CyberPeace Foundation


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