Today I received a flurry of “whatsapp” messages with one specifically requesting me to comment on this story that appeared in Times of India and subsequently got replicated everywhere (http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/do-not-respond-to-calls-from-numbers-starting-with-92-90-or-09-29654.html). In a nutshell this was a story about a telecom company warning people not to respond to calls from +92 numbers as it would lead to your SIM getting cloned by terrorists.
First, good news is this is a hoax(http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/weekly/aa021898.htm). But like all good hoaxes there is a bit of truth hidden behind technological complexity and widely held fear of certain type of criminals(in this case terrorists).
The bit of truth here is as per the “urban legends website” is 90# is the code in old PABX (private exchanges that some businesses use to transfer the call and control. Once that happens people can dial a # to connect to whatever the number thus charging these businesses the tariffs for those calls. This is not true for any of the mobile or cell phone numbers.
Cloning or more appropriately duplication of SIMs is still possible but they don’t need access your phone. You can not have any control over it either one way or the other. This is a headache of the mobile networks and they need to figure out how to deal with two similar numbers in their network (and they do have means of identifying the fake ones).
In spite of hoax or fear mongering of this, this may have still benefitted regular folks as it would cause some awareness about Phishing frauds and make people aware of social engineering frauds.
The generic lesson here is,
- Never respond to unsolicited (not initiated by you) calls by any companies/call centers. It is highly unlikely that any companies use this kind of mechanisms to get anything done as the cost is very high for such exercises.
That brings us to the question, why these missed calls (I too have received them in the past) ? No concrete answers for these. It would be most likely a VOIP based random dialing to build database of folks who fall for these (i.e if you call back and answer any questions).