The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives across the globe. In India, a nationwide lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to slow down the spread of the virus was imposed in March 2020. Since then, though the process of unlocking the country is in the fifth stage, several aspects of what we used to call “normal day-to-day life” are either not back on track or have changed forever. One such aspect is education.
The schools and colleges across the country are still closed and may open in some locations after 15th October. Tragedy always makes room for fake news, and misinformation and Covid-19 have done the same. This time, the false claims are being spread in the name of the Government of India. A message has been circulating over the messaging apps and social media platforms that the government has decided to provide 10 GB of free internet to students so that they can attend online classes.
The message reads:
Due to the Corona Virus, Schools and Colleges have been closed, and because of this, the Education of Students had been affected. So Government is providing Free Internet (10 GB Per Day) to all the Students so that Students can complete their Education and also give Exams with the help of the Internet and Online Classes.
You can fill the form to get your Free Internet Pack (10 GB Per Day) from this link.
Request: For the convenience of people, share this message as much as possible so that they can get the benefit of this facility.
To check the authenticity of the message, OpIndia decided to dig into the message and the website mentioned in the link. We did not find any information on free Internet Pack issued by the Department of Telecom, TRAI, or the Government of India.
‘Get free Internet’ website
When we typed in the website link that was included in the message, it opened a Blogspot page. Blogspot or blogger is a free blogging platform by Google. A Google Form was embedded on the page where the user has to fill personal information like Name, Class, Address, Pincode, Phone Number, and Mobile Operator. As per the message on the webpage, the user will get a confirmation message if he or she is eligible for the scheme.
To check what the page will lead on to, we filled out the form and clicked on Submit. As expected, the next page had a Trojan horse that was detected and removed.
There was a message that read:
To get Your Free Internet Pack, you have to press the green button below and send this offer to 10 people or ten groups on WhatsApp so that this offer can be advertised, after that you can get your Free Internet Pack Confirmation Message by pressing the blue button.
Note: Please send this to all your friends and family. Do not try to cheat; otherwise, our computer system will stop your registration, and you will not receive a confirmation message on your phone number.
There were generic links on the page like Terms and Conditions, About Us, Contact us, etc., but they were linked to non-existing pages. Just below these links, there was a long text written in small fonts. When we checked, it had detailed information on “What are mutual funds,” which was utterly irrelevant to the website.
There were two more malware links out of which one sends malicious messages to contacts on WhatsApp, and the other installs a Trojan on your computer.
No, the government is not providing 10 GB data to anyone amid lockdown. Press Information Bureau also called out the malicious advertisement and asked internet users to stay away from such websites.
Claim: It is claimed in a #WhatsApp message that government is providing free internet to all the students so that they can give online exams and complete their education amid #COVID19 pandemic.#PIBFactCheck: This claim is #Fake. No such decision has been taken by government. pic.twitter.com/LYUCtLrVEW— PIB Fact Check (@PIBFactCheck) October 6, 2020
A similar scam also came in light in May 2020. PIB reported that the claim was false and the link mentioned in the message was fake.
दावा : भारतीय दूरसंचार विभाग ने सभी मोबाइल यूजर को 3 मई 2020 तक फ्री इंटरनेट देने का ऐलान किया है जिसे प्राप्त करने के लिए दिए गए लिंक पर क्लिक करना होगा— PIB Fact Check (@PIBFactCheck) April 22, 2020
तथ्य :यह दावा बिलकुल झूठ है, व दिया गया लिंक फर्जी है|
कृप्या अफवाहों और जालसाज़ों से दूर रहें| pic.twitter.com/K31AGDNZ0p
Tips for identifying malicious websites
Always check government websites for any claims made on the name of the central or state governments. All schemes that are announced for the benefit of the citizen find space on the websites and/or in press releases.
Make sure not to click on shortened links. Any link with bit.ly at the beginning coming from an unknown source should be avoided at any cost.
Make sure to have a good anti-virus application installed on your computer, mobile, and other such devices.
Do not provide your personal information like name, address, phone number, etc. to a stranger. In this case, the website asked for a lot of personal information that should raise red flags. Such information can be used in criminal activities like account hacking, spamming, identity theft etc.
Any government scheme will not have a Blogspot/blogger/WordPress page, but it will rather have a webpage on government domains such as gov.in, nic.in, and so on. Please make sure to use the official government websites to submit applications for government schemes.
If someone forwards you any such message, make sure to inform him/her that such messages are mostly fake. Do not forward or click on any link embedded in such messages.