Over thousands of residents in Munnar, Kerala, have been scammed into opening postal accounts after falling for a WhatsApp message rounds that said those with postal accounts can avail financial benefits up to Rs 15 Lakh as per a “directive by the union government.”
According to local reports, soon after the message was sent around on Saturday evening, there were long queues at the local post office throughout the day on Sunday. Even as the post office employees insisted that the scheme was a scam, people couldn’t give less of a shit and kept coming to avail the unbelievable offer.
According to The New Indian Express, the fake message being circulated said: “Tomorrow is a golden day for u. Tomorrow morning 8 am to till the next day there will be Indian Postal Payment Bank (IPPB) account opening. You should bring Aadhar card with 2 photos; if u open this account, government will give loans (mudra loan and kissan credit loan) shortly at Munnar post office. Please use this opportunity. Kindly share this matter your relations. To open Indian Postal Payment Banking Account, an amount of Rs 100 along with Aadhaar card copy and 2 passport photos should be given. PLACE : MUNNAR POST OFFICE.”
What was even more worrisome was that labourers and plantation workers took leaves and arrived at the office in hoards. It was only after media reports started to come out that it's fake news that people stopped showing up. But by then, the Munnar post office had already opened over 1,500 accounts.
Fake news in India has become one of the most problematic concerns, especially for the authorities. From claims that the current government supports marijuana legalisation to 40-year-old pictures from Pakistan being passed around to falsely portray a Muslim man being flogged in India—fake news on WhatsApp has been bypassing the strictest of checks put in place by the messaging service to ensure authenticity. Whether it’s during election season or in our daily lives, fake news circulate far and wide in a manner so believable that people fall prey to them.
A similar situation erupted in Devikulam, a hill station near Munnar, on July 29, when crowds flocked to the Revenue Divisional Office because of a fake WhatsApp message that promised them free land and houses. The message said that since the scheme of land distribution in Kuttiyar Valley for landless labourers would start from August 1, those who are not on the list would be given free land and funds to build a house by just filling up an application. Despite the local authorities insisting this wasn’t true, the workers forced them to accept their applications, while mediators took advantage and charged the labourers Rs 150 to submit their application, even though they knew it wasn’t true.
Police in the area have now been instructed to look into these matters of misinformation. But, as disheartening as it is, this just goes to show how badly people want to believe things that can benefit them and how false promises become a dangerous breeding ground for hope.
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