Phone thieves

Trin…trin, a phone call assuring you a good return if you re-invest in a plan of a reputed company. You may get allured but think twice before paying them anything. They are, probably, cheats who have got your personal details from a reputed company to make it appear that entire transaction is real.

I recently used a few tricks to find out whether they were a genuine representatives of the companies or not.

Reason was simple. This February I got a call on behalf of Tata AIG with whom I have an insurance plan which was maturing in first week of March. On a Saturday morning my phone rang and a person claiming to be from Tata AIG wanted to confirm whether I had a policy with the company. When I replied in positive, he spelled out the number of my policy that was expiring. It reassured me that a person from company’s call center was calling.

He offered me a dream proposal. He told me that if I invest about Rs 35,000 back with Tata AIG I will get assured Rs 1,07,000 within 180 days. He told me that it was a royalty bonus the company was giving me for not defaulting.

Oh great was my first reaction. But, then I thought that how can a company give so much of royalty bonus.

I demanded from the person that entire offer should placed before me on a company paper, which I will authenticate from Tata AIG office. He told me that once I invest the company will give me in writing. I refused to budge and demanded a letter in advance. He refused that no such letter can be issued as it was against company policy. When I asked him to connect me to his supervisor he put me on hold and disconnected after some time.

I wanted to get deeper into this. So, a few days later, probably, in second week of March I called up the Tata AIG call center. My fear was confirmed when I was told that no such loyalty bonus is issued by the company. When I asked how he knew about my policy details, the person confirmed that either they were sold to a call center or stolen.

I immediately recalled that I had received a similar call on a Sunday from a New Delhi land-line telephone number claiming to be from the office of India’s Insurance Regulator and having my insurance policy details.

My biggest fear that the personal information we provide to insurance companies or to anybody else in confidentiality is not secure and there is no law in India which provides protection to citizens against such thefts.

I know for sure that such stolen or sold person data has been used by those, whom I describe as phone thieves, to extract money from gullible residents. Delhi police is investigating into some such complaints. Phone thieves is normally used for those who sell stolen mobiles in the grey market. But, I used the term as a phone call has become a easier way of stealing your money. So, they are the real phone thieves for me.

But, there is no mechanism available for citizens to verify this new breed of phone thieves or approach police, who cannot register a case against them until the fraud has been committed. Once that is done, tracing them is a herculean task as evident from some such cases.

Writing this story on my blog was for a reason. I wanted readers of the blog not to fall in such trap and be doubly cautious about phone thieves and also raise the concerns over lack of privacy laws in India which has made every Indian vulnerable to such phone thieves.

What will happen if somebody steals or sells the entire Unique Identification or Aadhaar number biometric data stored of 1.2 bn Indians stored in Bangalore? What if Aadhaar number is misused to get your bank details and thieves siphon off money in your bank account?

The fears of the modern technologies are many but the government which has enforced new norms have no solution.

I have one. Next time you invest in an insurance plan ask the person whether your personal data is protected or not. If he says yes, ask him to show it on the agreement you sign with the insurance company. If it is there in the agreement you would able to sue the company for improper handling of your personal data.

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