A fake WhatsApp message is in circulation that claims the government is offering free Internet access to 100 million users for three months. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) has flagged the message as fraud and confirmed that no such announcement has been made by the government. The message also carries a link that could be used maliciously to trick users and steal their personal data. Users are advised to not pay attention to any such messages and inform their contacts about the scam.
PIB tweeted the details about the fake WhatsApp message on June 1, along with a short video highlighting the content of the message. The video shows that the message falsely tells users that the offer under which the government is giving free Internet access is available to Jio, Airtel, and Vi (Vodafone Idea) users until June 29. It also includes a fraudulent link that takes to a website asking personal details about users.
धोखाधड़ी से सावधान!#WhatsApp मैसेज में दावा किया गया है कि भारत सरकार 3 महीने के लिए 100 मिलियन उपयोगकर्ताओं को मुफ्त इंटरनेट सुविधा प्रदान कर रही है।#PIBFactCheck: यह दावा व लिंक #फ़र्ज़ी है। भारत सरकार द्वारा ऐसी कोई घोषणा नहीं की गयी है। ऐसे फ़र्ज़ी वेबसाइट से सतर्क रहें। pic.twitter.com/08iUNUbEOM
— PIB Fact Check (@PIBFactCheck) June 1, 2021
By giving details on any such websites may risk your personal data. The government has also advised users to not open suspicious links such as the one available in the message shown in the PIB video as those could allow fraudsters to maliciously harm users.
This is notably not the first time when a fake message has been in circulation through WhatsApp. In April, a message claiming to bring WhatsApp Pink spread over the instant messaging app that could have allowed attackers to obtain user data and access to the phones of affected users. The PIB also just last week informed about another fake message in which it was falsely claimed that WhatsApp would start showing red ticks to indicate government’s control on the app.
WhatsApp has features including the ‘forwarded many times’ label to restrict circulation of fake messages on its platform to some extent. The Facebook-owned company also provided tips about how its users could prevent the spread of rumours and fake news. However, despite those moves, several users are often being preyed upon by bad actors spreading fake information.