Multiple videos of Maharashtra Police making a public announcement are viral on social media. The accompanying claims suggest that the police is advising people to not receive calls from phone numbers that start with 140. In the video, it seems that the police are warning people that their bank balance will be emptied to zero if they accept calls from such a number.
Alt News has received multiple verification requests for the video.
A user tweeted one such video of Maharashtra police on July 10, 2020 and wrote, “@MumbaiPolice got this video on whatsapp informing not to pick up call from phone number starting with 140. This seems to be during covid pandemic as police is wearing a mask. Can you please confirm the authenticity of this news?”
@MumbaiPolice got this video on whatsapp informing not to pick up call from phone number starting with 140. This seems to be during covid pandemic as police is wearing a mask. Can you please confirm the authenticity of this news? pic.twitter.com/ystIiIWPdQ
— RV (@rvipani) July 10, 2020
Videos of the police making such announcements in different areas were floating on social media last year.
— H V R (@rhitesh711) July 10, 2020
The clip below was viral on Facebook.
Mumbai Police Main Control has just received a message that call numbers starting with 140 should not be accepted.
Posted by North East Assam 24 on Monday, 13 July 2020
Alt News has also received fact-checks requests for the third video on its official mobile application back then.
After such videos began circulating online, Maharashtra Cyber Police tweeted that numbers starting with +140 number are of telemarketing calls. The police also wrote about the viral message claims that one’s bank account will be emptied if one receives calls from the numbers starting with 140. According to the tweet, this is just a rumour and bank accounts are at risk only if a person shares their PIN number or OTP. In the end, the tweet said that the clarification has been issued by the Inspector General of Special Police.
डेबिट/ क्रेडिट कार्ड डिटेल्स जर कोणी विचारत असेल तर आपण आपली कोणतीही वैयक्तिक माहिती, बँक खात्याची माहिती, डेबिट/ क्रेडिट कार्डची माहिती अथवा पिन नंबर/ ओटीपी देऊ नये अथवा दिला जाणार नाही याची काळजी घ्यावी.
विशेष पोलीस महानिरीक्षक,
महाराष्ट्र सायबर (4/n)
— Maharashtra Cyber (@MahaCyber1) July 11, 2020
The viral videos actually show the police alerting people about the rumour. It is not possible that accepting calls from any numbers starting with 140 will empty bank accounts.
Sony LIV publicity stunt behind the viral rumour
It is important to note that people in Mumbai have been receiving calls from numbers starting with 140 or 40 figures in the past few days. Upon picking up the call, a person on the other end talks about a murder that happened in front of him. Tagging the official Twitter account of Mumbai Police, a verified user Smriti Kiran said that she had received a call from one such number starting with 140. She informed that a man said that he witnessed a murder and the person who committed the crime wants to kill him too. Kiran demanded the Mumbai Police to take action in this matter.
Got a very disturbing call from this number +91 140 880 0135 @MumbaiPolice…The gentleman said he has witnessed a murder. Has recorded it on his phone & now those people want to kill him. He hung up after that. He was crying & quavering while speaking. Please look into this.
— smriti kiran (@smritikiran) July 10, 2020
According to an NDTV report from July 11, people in Mumbai are receiving such prank calls for promotion of a web series. The report is based on PTI feed. Several people have contacted the police out of fear. The report adds that a person named Vaibhav Pawar told the police that he received a call from ‘Rishi’ at around 4 pm. Rishi was crying on the phone and telling him that he saw a murder happen in front of him and now the murderer wants to kill him too. Several people have informed the police of similar calls.
Since these phone calls were part of the promotion of a web series, the murder story is made-up. The channel Sony LIV was making such fake calls to promote its new series ‘Undekhi’. While giving clarification in this matter on July 10 Sony LIV apologised. The channel claimed that its “intention was not to cause any kind of discomfort or panic.” Smriti Kiran tweeted that this method of promotion is shameful and requested Mumbai Police to take strict action against the channel.
If you have received a call for our show Undekhi & it has disturbed you we would like to sincerely apologise to you. This was a test activity which has gone out accidentally & our intention was not to cause any kind of discomfort or panic. We sincerely regret any inconvenience.
— SonyLIV (@SonyLIV) July 10, 2020
Mumbai police also criticised the promotional activity and tweeted, “Any publicity creating panic amongst citizens and suggesting a threat to their security will be dealt with necessary severity.”
The era of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is a passé. Any publicity creating panic amongst citizens and suggesting a threat to their security will be dealt with necessary severity. Hope the fake calls for promotions aren’t bothering you any longer, Mumbaikars #SoNotDone
— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) July 10, 2020
Videos of Mumbai police alerting people across the city that a fake message claiming calls from any numbers starting will 140 will empty bank accounts were viral on social media. The cause of the rumour was a promotional activity by Sony LIV.