Mobile recharging station operators in India sell tens of thousands of women's phone numbers to stalkers

Tens of thousands of women in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have complained to police about harassing phone calls from creepy men who bought their phone numbers from the operators of mobile phone recharging stations; they say the operators sneakily captured their phone numbers and sold them off to the stalkers.

The creepers' playbook includes cold-calling the women and opening the conversation with "humain aapse dosti karna hai" ("I want to make friendship with you"). One creeper quoted in the Hindustan Times describes it as "harmless fun" and recounts how he sends "vulgar pictures over WhatsApp" to women.

No criminal charges have been laid against the men selling the numbers; police say the crime is so common they'd be overwhelmed if they targeted the criminals. Very rarely, a fine is issued, but more frequently then men are given "a stern warning."

Mobile phone recharge agents require their customers to fill in a form giving their phone numbers. The underground trade in phone numbers using a sliding scale for payments: up to 500 rupees for a "beautiful" woman; 50 rupees for an "ordinary looking" woman.

Mohammed, 24, of Shahjahanpur, confessed to HT about what he described as having some harmless fun. His favourite recharge outlet is the one run by a father-son duo. "We go there when the father is away," he says. He and his friends then use the numbers to strike friendships. "Sometimes we send vulgar pictures over WhatsApp," he admits.

Stalkers' delight: Mobile numbers of girls for sale in UP recharge shops
[Snigdha Poonam/Hindustan Times]

(via Marginal Revolution)