A public relations stunt by SonyLIV an online streaming service, for its upcoming show Undekhi where it cold called people with a recorded message about witnessing a murder created panic and has led to a wave of misinformation.
On July 10, several netizens lashed out at SonyLIV for a pre-recorded frantic call that they received as part of a promotional activity by the streaming app. According to tweets, the pre-recorded calls were made by a caller, who identified himself as Rishi. In the recordings, the caller can be heard worriedly saying that he had witnessed a murder, that was filmed on his phone, and that the murderers were after him. Towards the end of the call, it is revealed that it is a promotional call for SonyLIV's new crime show, Undekhi.
This caused panic among several netizens, who mass reported the incident to the Mumbai police.
Following which, several Mumbai Police teams on patrol made announcements advising people not to receive calls from numbers which started with digits '+140'.
Further, clips of policemen misleadingly stating that if they received such a call it would lead to a zero account balance, also went viral.
BOOM reached out to Harish Baijal, DIG, Cyber Security Maharashtra Police, who confirmed that after complaints against the SonyLIV gimmick calls, police mobile vans patrolling made these misleading announcements and a clarification has since been issued by the department on the viral clips.
Promotional gimmick boomerangs
Netizens who received the pre-recorded call expressed the distress they suffered and tagged Mumbai Police on Twitter to call out on the promotional gimmick by SonyLIV.
Shame on you @SonyLIV I just got to know that this call is a promotional gimmick for your new show. I was on the floor breathless with panic when I got it. Are you out of your mind doing this??? @MumbaiPolice you must take action. This is appalling and unethical. https://t.co/4Vp1YAzYjW— smriti kiran (@smritikiran) July 10, 2020
What a ridiculous #promotional call trick by #Undekhi #SonyLIV Do U even realise what this can cause to a person if they miss out the last few words in panic. Get a better way to promote your series #webseries #advertisement #ScamAlert #murdercall #unethical #worldpremiereseries pic.twitter.com/8CzUhTkVti— Suvrata Bhati (@BhatiSuvrata) July 10, 2020
Mumbai Police's official Twitter handle also admonished SonyLIV for such a promotional activity which led to panic among citizens.
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
Additionally, the Maharashtra Cyber Police stated on Twitter that the channel has been instructed to cease the promotional activity immediately and advised people not to panic and create rumours if they received any such call.
We have instructed the channel to cease this promotional activity immediately. (2/n)— Maharashtra Cyber (@MahaCyber1) July 10, 2020
After the backlash, SonyLIV issued an apology in which the platform claimed that it was a test activity which had gone out accidentally.
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
BOOM reached out to SonyLIV for a response. The article will be updated as and when we receive the same.
'Promotional call' gives way to misinformation
The damage had already been done, with several WhatsApp forwards claiming that calls starting with the digits '+140' should not be received. Noteworthy that the SonyLIV promotional calls were made from numbers starting with digits '+140, a common code used by telemarketers.
Soon after clips of Mumbai Police personnel warning people not to receive calls starting with the digits '+140' to avoid a bank scam were also viral. In one such viral clip, a cop can be heard saying, "Don't receive the calls starting with 140. If you receive them then your bank account's balance will be reduced to 'zero'."
@MumbaiPolice @DGPMaharashtra— pranav (@sanepranav) July 10, 2020
I got this video from other social media channel. Wherein a police office can be seen telling not to receive any calls from number starting with 140. Pls validate and confirm its authenticity pic.twitter.com/ESb02gFR52
This video of a policeman announcing not to attend any calls from number 140, looking at the mask, the video seems to be during this pandemic period, can the people get clarification for the same?? Thank you 😊@CPMumbaiPolice @MumbaiPolice pic.twitter.com/ZldVJe2xFP— Nihar Sakpal (@SakpalNihar) July 10, 2020
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BOOM also received several queries on its WhatsApp helpline number (7700906111) inquiring about it.
The Maharashtra Cyber Police later tweeted clarifying on the viral clips of constables. The cyber police stated that there is no fact behind it as long as one does not reveal their bank account details, OTP or credit card / debit card number.
कोणतेही तथ्य नसून जोपर्यंत आपण, बँक अकाउंट डिटेल्स, ओटीपी अथवा क्रेडिट कार्ड / डेबिट कार्ड चे पूर्ण नंबर तसेच सी. व्ही. व्ही./ पिन नंबर शेअर करीत नाही तोपर्यंत आपल्या बँक खात्याला कसलेही नुकसान होऊ शकत नाही हे लक्षात घ्यावे. (2/n)— Maharashtra Cyber (@MahaCyber1) July 11, 2020
There is a video clip doing the rounds on social media of a police constable telling people not to accept calls from numbers starting with +140.— Maharashtra Cyber (@MahaCyber1) July 10, 2020
We would like to clarify that numbers starting with +140 are telemarketing calls. (1/n)
BOOM reached out to Harish Baijal, DIG, Cyber Security Maharashtra Police, who said, "After the promotional calls by SonyLIV, many police mobiles on patrolling made announcements that the call is fake. The department has also issued an advisory about money being wiped out from your account clips which are viral."
Previously, In October 2018 a similar PR gimmick was tried by the makers of the film Pihu, who tried promoting it with calls to people with a pre-recorded audio of a child crying, which disturbed several people who took to social media criticising it.
Updated On: 2020-07-15T12:44:47+05:30