India is a country of 1.39 Billion people with a teledensity (number of telephone connections for every 100 individuals living in an area) of 78.93. India has a tremendous potential for growth in the telecom market and mobile coverage in rural and urban areas. With the increasing teledensity, the need for good network coverage every where, is becoming a challenging task for the telecom companies. More and more mobile towers are needed to fulfill the ever increasing demand.
This has given rise to new forms of business opportunities i.e., the mobile tower rental business. As the telecom companies do not own the land where ever they need to install the mobile tower, hence the telecom companies are taking privately owned space (vacant rooftops, vacant land) on long term rental basis from the individuals, government offices. The owner of the property is given a long term assured monthly rental from the telecom company. Thus, mobile tower renting has emerged as a golden business opportunity for property owners. Sometimes, the property owner also gets an employment opportunity, like security guard or caretaker of the tower. However, these scammer preys on people’s greed, and their lack of knowledge of the process of the mobile tower installation.
The scammers use two methods as a bait for the mobile tower installation fraud. The first method is that they use print media such as newspapers, to give ads in the classified column. The second method is that they send bulk SMS to the public. Advertisements are for seeking space for installation of mobile tower. They use fake company profile to lure the victims or some fraudsters use a fake company similar to the licensed telecom service provider and reputed Infrastructure Provider Company. Many scammers are also seen to have their website to prove their genuineness
Many of them are not only using mobile numbers but also toll free numbers (1800) to communicate with the victims. There are complete call centers running for targeting mass audience. Once the initial contact is made by the victim with the fraud call center, they start working on a script having different actors like surveyor, engineer, government authorities. The victim is asked to deposit a small registration amount and to share their personal information for the installation of the mobile tower. In most of the cases the victim is informed that your property will be visited by our surveyor for selection and if the land is selected, a No Objection Certificate(NOC) will be issued from TRAI or the government authorities.
This is just a part of the script and in reality no person will visit the property and after some days the fraudster will inform the victim that your property has been surveyed and there is no need of the physical survey of the land. After this the fraudster will send forged documents like TRAI policy, NOC, an agreement etc to the victim. This will earn the trust of the victim. These papers have a common theme of deposition of advance government tax by the victim. At this point the victim feels that he has secured a genuine deal with a genuine tower company and the employees are working hard to get his tower file cleared from the authorities and the advance cheque will be released soon.
The fraudsters completely satisfy the victim by their confidence techniques and forged documents. The scammers apply time and pressure techniques on the victim so that the victim should deposit the money in the fraudsters account towards fictitious charges, such as government taxes, service tax, government registration charges or clearance charges. But as soon as the money is deposited they disappear and do not respond to the calls.
According to a study, most number of victims are males and it is believed that their victimization percentage is higher than the female counter parts. Age is also a big factor in deciding the victimization percentage. Older people tend to get scammed easily. The mean age of scammed victims is 48 years. The study also reveals that people having higher education (postgraduate, graduate, diploma) are more likely to get scammed, than less educated people. The employment status of the victims reveals that 29% are working in private sector, 18% each are farmers and business people, 13% are retired employees and 12% are unemployed.
Public notice by TRAI
After watching these scams, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has issued a public notice and sends bulk messages to billions of subscribers informing them about the technique used by fraudsters to steal money. It has also mentioned that TRAI is not involved, even indirectly, in the installation of mobile towers. The public notice reads:
“It has been brought to the notice of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India that some companies/agencies/individuals are fraudulently asking members of public to deposit money in their personal/companies account as government Tax under Telecom Act for leasing their premises for installation of mobile towers. These companies/agencies/individuals become unreachable after collection of money. These companies are also issuing a fake ‘No Objection Certificates/Permissions’ for the Installation of Tower purportedly issued by Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.”
The Public at large is hereby informed that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) is neither directly not indirectly involved in any manner, in levy of any tax/fees on leasing premises for installation of mobile towers or for issuing any ‘No Objection Certificates’ for the purpose.
“Anyone dealing or entering into agreements with such companies/agencies/individuals will be doing so at his/her own risk and TRAI shall not be held responsible for any claim or loss or damages, whatsoever, suffered directly or indirectly. Affected persons may take up the matter with the law enforcing agencies”.
Official website of TRAI