Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Nah! Nah! don't return missed calls from +6742 and +4382

Yesterday evening I missed out on ace fashion designer Sabyasachi's program Peeli Kothi at The Taj Bengal as I was engaged in conference call with UN associations' New York and Geneva offices.
The timings of the event and the conference call clashed due to the time zone diference and there was no way I could postpone the conference call that was fixed up three weeks in advance.
By the time the marathon conference call ended it was almost quarter to midnight. I was planning to retire for the day when my cell phone once again buzzed a few times and stopped. The number that flashed was an international number starting from + 6742. I presumed that it might be a call from any of the UN association offices which must have got disconnected.
I called back on the number and a gruff voice in raw Hindi told me that I had won a free mobile set. I presumed that it was one of those crank callers and said that I wasn't interested. He said that if I did not accept this offer my SIM would be blocked. I got a little annoyed and bluntly told him I wasn't at all interested. He tried to stretch the conversation and I had to rudely snap the line to cut him short.
I, like numerous others, have for quite some time been winning millions and millions of pounds in lotteries if the SMSs are to be believed. Sadly, many people fall to the wiles of the scamsters. Recently it was in news that a gentleman from Beliaghata had shelled out nearly Rs 1 lac as processing fee to get `SMS lottery' money that never came. The racket was busted when three Nigerians were arrested from Delhi's Pantnagar.
The next day I mentioned about this call to my point of contact in Vodafone, who, even before I could spell out the number, told me the call must have come from either 6742 or 4382. I was somewhat taken a back. She told me that these were basically high premium international destination numbers and whoever calls back on these numbers have to shell out a whopping Rs 100 plus per minimum units. She told me that many people who see this on their bills jump to the conclusion that their mobile service provider has cheated them. They, invariably, end up blaming and fighting with their mobile service providers.
I remember in early 1994 - 95 when I used to live in England there were certain phone services with designated number codes that had very high incoming call rates. The idea was to encourage the caller to be brief and to the point and end any conversation early or end up paying a hefty amount. Basically pay more if you wasting some ones time. In fact few company still have this kind of service in use.
After being briefed by Vodafone , it became clear that people, mostly from African countries, were using these codes to give blank calls at random to the people whose phone numbers they had accessed by various means. They target the numbers whose past bills shows that they make frequent international calls. Whoever responds to these international missed calls would end up footing huge bills while the cranksters rake in the moolah.
We all know how in friendship lines, using international code numbers, engage girls to entice people into lengthy chats to keep their cash registers ringing. Likewise, there are astrology, friendship and dating lines. But this missed call business is a new a strategy to fleece money from unsuspecting people who, often out courtesy, are just responding to a missed call.
As a child I used to hear stories from my grand parents and their folks that Indians have the best brains and the most ingenious ways of making money. True. It is indeed ingenious and also ignominious.
ess bee

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