Mobile tower frauds surge across nation

Prateek Goyal
Thursday, 29 March 2018

The fraudsters operate in the name of big companies such as Reliance Jio Tower, Idea 3G Tower, Aircel/ MTS Tower Company, 4G Server and Technology Ltd and other service providers.

PUNE: The recent case in which Kumudani Kurapatti (55) of Ganj Peth was duped of Rs 4.37 lakh on the pretext of installing a mobile tower at her land in Daund, is just the tip of the iceberg of massive mobile tower frauds flourishing across the country.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is aware about the issue. The fraudsters operate in the name of big companies such as Reliance Jio Tower, Idea 3G Tower, Aircel/ MTS Tower Company, 4G Server and Technology Ltd and other service providers. They lure people into their trap with promise of high rents and deposits for taking the land on lease for installing mobile towers. Then they ask for money for completing documentation.

The fraudsters publish advertisements in newspapers and public places. Law enforcement agencies have failed to act against the menace despite the large number of victims.

Kurappatti was promised a deposit of Rs 75 lakh for 20 years and a monthly rent of Rs 75,000 to 90,000, and ended up paying Rs 4.37 lakh. She is not the only victim in Pune.

A source from the Cyber Crime Cell of the Pune police said that on average three cases of mobile tower frauds are registered every month in Pune. This number goes up to at least 100 across the country.

Another victim, Mahesh Hiremath of Gulbarga in Karnataka, was duped along with three of his relatives who own land in Solapur and Chikhali. Hiremath said, "We were duped of Rs 73,000 by the fraudsters, who introduced themselves to be from Reliance Jio Tower. I came to know about the offer in December 2017 from a friend, who saw an advertisement in the name of Reliance Jio Tower with four contact numbers in a Delhi-bound Karnataka Express train. The advertisement quoted the rent of Rs 50,000 and a deposit of Rs 60 lakh for a period of 10 years. I contacted one of the numbers mentioned in advertisement after going through their website"

Hiremath said after he contacted on the number given, he was asked to send a copy of his Aadhaar Card, land documents and photos of people from his village who are interested in the offer.

He said, "I didn't have my own land but my relatives have land. So, I sent details of three of my relatives who were interested in the offer. A day later, the fraudster asked me to deposit Rs 1,100 as agreement charges in an account number given by him. After two days, they sent documents on the letter head of Reliance Jio with a stamp of Reliance Jio Tower Group. The documents had the signature of Karan Goyal with a Mumbai address of Reliance Jio Digital India."

Hiremath said the fraudster then asked them to deposit 'no objection certificate' charges of Rs 24,200 per tower. He said, "We deposited Rs 72,600 for three towers and were told that after 24 hours, they would transfer half the deposit amount of Rs 30 lakh in each of the accounts and the remaining after installation of the towers. However, a day later, the fraudster told us a new policy of insurance has been introduced as a tower collapsed in Gujarat, damaging nearby property. He then demanded Rs 37,500 as insurance money deposit per tower. I got suspicious and didn't deposit the money."

Hiremath visited the office of Reliance Jio Digital India in Mumbai and was told that two-three people have approached them with similar complaints and somebody must have defrauded them using the name of Reliance Jio Tower. He said, "The address on the document was 1809, 1st floor, South Tower, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Bandra (E), which is almost the same as the original address with a slight change as the original office is in Fortune Building and not South Tower."

There are complaints on the Internet about the mobile fraud scam.

A police sub inspector of the Cyber Crime Cell of Pune police on condition of anonymity, said, "Mobile tower frauds are happening in Pune and other cities. This is a major scam of crores of rupees. Fraudsters are publishing advertisements in renowned English and regional languages papers."

Rohan Nyayadheesh, a cyber crime expert, said, "These fraudsters not only publish advertisements in newspapers, TV and on the Internet, but also call up people after acquiring details related to their property through Quikr and other property websites and property advertisements in newspapers. They use high-end techniques of forgery and are preparing documents with the letterhead of big mobile service providers."

When Sakal Times contacted Rajan Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India, he said, "People should not fall into the trap of these fraudsters. They should check with real operators before depositing money. They should check with COAI, which has the list of bonafide operators and they should talk to the nodal officers who are responsible for installation procedure, or consult a lawyer to find details of the company."

Ankur Chaudhary, a representative of Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), said, "We published advertisements about frauds related to mobile tower installation 304 times in a year in renowned newspapers. The best way to identify fraudsters is that the original service providers will never ask money for documentation process. If they find someone suspicious, they should immediately report them to the police."

Despite repeated calls, RS Sharma, Chairman of TRAI, was unavailable for comment.

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