Hello! I am Wangri, Please Don’t Call Back

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by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: An unknown number rings for a few seconds and hangs up. There is an instant temptation to call back but do you know it is a scam and falling for it could cost you dearly. It is a Wangiri Scam or ‘One Ring Phone Scam’, which relies on the callers’ curiosity of calling back because many people would instinctively return a missed call and what compels callers to call back is the repetitive miss calls.

KL Artwork by Malik Yasir

The cybercriminals’ only hope is the hope of call being returned so that they can make easy bucks out of an innocent or gullible caller.

Are you among millions of people across globe especially in Kashmir who have been lately receiving strange foreign numbers from countries you may or may not have visited,  especially, those showing Saudi Arabia codes on your phones in the last few days?

Then, beware.

Many have not been able to. Many people Kashmir Life spoke to said they said they got tempted to call back and did but were not able to make a call as they had no ISD packs.

And what if calls are connected?

You are then lured into staying on the line for as long as possible. The longer you hold on the line, the more money they ultimately make.

To accomplish this, the scammers rely on a mix of psychology and social engineering. Some victims have reported being told they’ve won a prize—usually money—and are encouraged to wait on the line to claim it. Others are lured by music without any other incentives or a recording of a call in which a boy seems to be talking to a girl and the user is occupied into a conversation without participation as the calls are automated.

The Wangari scams originated in Japan as the term itself is Japanese for “one (ring) and cut.”

It is not just in Kashmir; the phishing scam has been reported globally, especially since 2019 and is an international scam, with victims distributed across the world. Warnings about the scam have appeared in the UK, Canadian, Irish, and New Zealand media, among others.

Pertinent to mention, in 2019, the Department of Telecom (DoT), Government of India said it was an international phishing scam and people can become victims of some malware attack secretly extracting data from the Smartphone.

As these days most of our important transactions happen over the internet. It also poses a great risk as we expose our data to cybercriminals or hackers. The hackers have devised numerous ways to steal important data which is then put to misuse.

Taking cognizance, the DoT even started notifying telecom users about the new call-based phishing scam.

“While receiving an international call, if an Indian number or no number is displayed on your phone, please inform on the DoT toll-free number 1800110420/1963,” read the DoT message send to mobile phone subscribers.

The Cyber cell of Jammu and Kashmir police on Tuesday sounded an alarm over the ‘one ring phone scam’ urging people of Kashmir not to return missed calls or to respond to the calls from unknown international numbers.

Viral audio of SP Cyber Crime, Tahir Ashraf on WhatsApp confirms the presence of scam in Kashmir and says that the Kashmir is receiving calls from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia and the fraudsters intent is to lure caller to back and when the caller calls back the call goes through expensive route pack. The expenditure of the call depends on how long the caller stays online. The fraudsters keep the caller engaged so that they can earn the money and also find time to intrude privacy. It is advisable for people to not fall for temptations of calling back and out of ignorance if anyone has, the concerned should not repeat.

As these numbers are system generated the SP has urged people to not report such calls in the police station as tracing them backing is impossible. But the users should report to their call service providers, customers’ services so that they can firewall users against such fraud calls.

Answering the question of how these private numbers were availed by cybercriminals the SP said, “There are many companies where users need to enter numbers like Truecaller while creating an email, doing shopping that asks to feed numbers and in turn the companies sell the data to various players.”

The SP said that the only way out is to stay aware and stay safe.

The Cyber Police Cell Kashmir has issued an advisory informing people on how to deal with the scam. The advisory issued by the Cyber wing reads: “If your phone rings once and then stops, if this happens to you and you don’t recognize the number, do not return the call. You may be a target of a one-ring phone scam.”

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About Author

A Mass Communication and Journalism postgraduate from the University of Kashmir, Khalid is a writer by choice and a journalist by chance.

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