'Devil' mobile phone calls spark panic in east India

Tue Mar 28, 8:55 AM ET

BHUBANESWAR, India (AFP) - Authorities moved to quash panic among mobile phone users in eastern India after a rumour that "devil calls" from certain numbers have led to death and illness.

People started turning off their handsets after a rumour swept Orissa state of phones exploding like bombs killing their owners when they answered the calls.

The random "devil calls" supposedly started Sunday from phones with 11 to 14 digit numbers instead of the regular 10, said an official from India's state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam phone company.

"What I suspect is it could be the handiwork of vested interests to subsequently market anti-virus software for mobile phones. We will investigate," said Sunil Agarwal, general manger of Bharat Sanchar Nigam in Bhubaneswar city.

People in Orissa have told relatives and friends about other users becoming ill or even dying after receiving calls from mobile numbers with 11 to 14 digits.

But a state government spokesman dismissed the story as rubbish.

"We investigated and found out that no one was dead nor anybody taken ill. It was all rubbish," the spokesman said.

A mobile phone user in Bhubaneswar, who was not willing to be named, said he had received a call early Monday that flashed an eleven-digit number. The caller warned him to switch off his mobile.

"The caller told me if I continue to receive calls on my cell I could be receiving (a) virus that could blow up my phone. Interestingly, when I called back the number, the service provider voice said no such number exists. I simply switched off the set," he said.


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