Did Airtel put its Online Recharge Customers at Risk by Revealing Mobile Numbers & Handset Details on the Web?

With ever growing identity theft incidents and economic frauds, mobile and internet users are required to be very vigilant about whatever they do. Whatever be our attempts to safeguard our data what can be done if someone responsible for safe handling of data is not caring enough? This exactly was the situation with Airtel customers for a good part of the time. While telcos like Airtel provide reasonably good online facilities, someone who thinks a little more would be able to harvest decent amount of data about their customers – the mobile handset make, number of recharges done etc.

Mobile Handset Details Revealed

If an user attempts to obtain mobile internet settings from Airtel website (link not attached on purpose), the confirmation screen displays the model of the handset. This is fine if you are doing this for your handset, it is certainly not OK if you are keying in some random phone number.


Trouble factor: Someone just needs to key in a phone number and the captcha code. This makes it possible:

  1. For anyone to spam any Airtel number with innumerous settings messages at any time of the day.

  2. The receiver would be clueless as to why settings are being pushed on a continuous basis and will be left thinking if Airtel has gone nuts :P

  3. Airtel would not be in a position to find the originating computer easily. Even if they manage to trace the IP, rest of the process would be very lengthy and by then damage would be done

  4. There is also a remote possibility of hi-tech mobile thieves using this method to identify their prey once they get a list of mobile numbers in their area.

Check any customers transaction details/mobile number

Airtel’s prepaid recharge website also provides the facility to check transaction details for a week’s period. The site just requires a transaction ID or a prepaid number for checking the details. Making things worse is the absence of any second factor of authentication like OTP. Once a user completes a transaction a transaction ID would be generated. Given the fact these transaction IDs were sequential i.e., the next user anywhere in India would receive the next number as the transaction ID (check the numbers in screenshots), anyone could obtain sufficient information about a user including mobile number, recharge values and hence his/her usage pattern. Even the mode of payment used is displayed.


First transaction (somewhere in India)


Our Transaction


Somewhere in India


A bit of social engineering like search for the mobile number in Truecaller like website will provide the name and location of the user. This search can further be extended to other social networks to obtain further information.

We had written about this issue to Airtel few days ago, and it appears that they have fixed it now. Readers must note that this issue was open since months, and we can’t think of how many mobile numbers have fallen into wrong hands? Who is to be blamed for this – Airtel or the company who designed the website? Now transaction search requires mobile number, and Airtel sends an OTP to proceed further.

So your data is safe in terms of transactions but the first issue of handset model being displayed is still on.  This design flaw from Airtel has disclosed customer information, usage pattern, mode of payment of categories like Postpaid, fixed line/broadband, digital TV subscribers.

Have you ever received random OTA Settings from Airtel or any other operator?

Update 26 Jan 2014, 11:15 hrs IST

We received an update from Airtel regarding this today:

“At Bharti Airtel, customer satisfaction & feedback has always been of utmost importance. We take these feedback very seriously which has helped us deliver services that are world-class, innovative and affordable making us one of best services brand in the country. We welcome such valuable feedback that helps making our systems and processes more robust.”
airtel spokesperson

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  • sathish January 31, 2014 2:01 am

    I have a friend of mine who can activate any service of airtel just with the phone number of the person, thank god i don’t use Airtel!

  • VINOD PANDEY January 26, 2014 9:38 pm

    Hi, Airtel is one of the big cheater in the Delhi circle, iam activate 3G R.s 655 Data plan per month 3GB at 3G speed after that Unlimited @ 80KBPS through USD via main account balance, before recharging i confirmed (Airtel website, USD , Customer care) then after i activate plan, i have finished 3GB Data in 4 to 5 days after that speed will be according to plan that is 80KBPS Unlimited till plan validity, after 3 to 4 days plan is working upto the mark.,suddenly i saw my internet is connected but iam unable to send & receive packets, Customer care line also blacklist my particular mobile number, iam unable to connect to call to customer care then iam call through another airtel number, executive told your data plan 3 GB is finished then your speed will be 2Kbps. i have done all the troubleshooting because iam also a Technical support engineer but problem is still same.I recommend to all the user of delhi circle don’t recharge for unlimited plan in airtel it all are fake.if you want better clarification call at 9971646917.

    • VINOD PANDEY January 26, 2014 10:08 pm

      Airtel is one of the cheater Telecom operator in Delhi circle they sell the Data plan double deal manner if you activate 3G R.s 655 plan they told you getting upto 3 GB in 3G speed after that Speed will be Unlimited @ 80 Kbps till plan validity. before activation i confirmed via (airtel site, USD, Customer care) all is ok ,finally i activate the plan via USD using main balance upto 3GB speed upto the mark and after speed will be 80Kbps according to plan, suddenly i saw that my internet is connected but i unable to Send & Receive packets, also my mobile number is blacklist in Customer care for 24 hours , then i call to customer care after 24 hours executive told me your call will be transfer to senior, Senior personnel had told your 3 GB data is finished now your speed willbe 2KBPS till plan validity. I personally recommend don’t recharge airtel delhi circle number for unlimited data plan its 100% fake.

  • Samuel January 26, 2014 9:24 pm

    I tried but asking for OTP

  • Inderjeet Dang January 26, 2014 7:54 pm

    No it is asking for OTP. Without OTP you cannot login & fetch details.

    I have tried from this link https://pay.airtel.com/online-payments/transactionSearch.jsp?serviceType=PREPAID

  • Kumar January 26, 2014 6:42 pm

    Airtel recharge kiosk in Airtel showroom also shows the current balance as & when u enter mobile no

  • Saurabh January 26, 2014 4:23 pm

    Few months back I was also spammed by settings and received it 181 times and guess what, it was done by a girl Airtel CC after I had an argument over unfair deduction. I called them again asked them to stop her and it was stopped immediately. She actually gone nuts after the conversation. :P

  • SS January 26, 2014 3:23 pm

    Okay iphone 5s or note 3. My recommendation is iphone 5s even though i have criticised i phone for being excessively over priced. But the experience you are going to get is great. However, i os is a closed os with many restrictions. But as you only need to check mails and use whatsapp, iphone suits your requirement. I am not recommending note 3 because you might not get the experience of a 55k phone with that phone and its operating system. Further i am now hating samsung’s design.

    Now, comes the carrier. With i phone make sure you have 3g because 2g is damn slow on i phone and bsnl 2g is equivalent to 1g. I see you are having problems with bsnl 3g so i would recommend porting to idea cellular.

    • Vickky January 26, 2014 5:12 pm

      Thanks i was confused betn both the phones
      I will go for iphone 5s gold 1 then
      1more question i am getting iphone 5s cheapest at snapdeal.com should i take over there? I mean is it safe

      • SS January 26, 2014 6:28 pm

        Yes, it looks ok and cash on delivery makes it more safe. Even though i prefer amazon and flipkart, you can go for snapdeal too.

    • krish January 26, 2014 6:00 pm

      idea 3g is good I accept it but for private operators there is every chance that our balance will be deducted wrongly. when opening certain sites in idea and airtel 3g will push up ads about their services in webpages. unknowingly if we click them our are balance gets deducted by rs.50 or rs.100. there is every chance that we may click them some time or the other by mistake. and again we have to pay from our data balance for the fu***ng ads kept by them. bsnl 3g customer support may be poor but if you have a good coverage at your place then bsnl always will be above others.

      • SS January 26, 2014 6:31 pm

        I agree but It has never been a problem with me. Just be little safe and even if you make a mistake, just speak to twitter cc executives and they are going to refund the entire amt.

        • raj January 26, 2014 8:04 pm

          wrong…Idea is a big cheater.Once Rs50 deducted.CC said I clicked a game link..which I never did.I will be very careful in using internet on mobile.

          The most important thing is that I haven’t used internet at that time.CC too confirmed that don’t have any details of internet usage at that time.No proper explanation given.This is done intentionally.

          Just 1 day before this incident,I fought with CC regarding a RC validity.Complained on email, twitter & FB..spoke to CC team lead & nodal officer.They are telling some kahanis about deduction.I followed for 1 week & fed up with them it was waste of money & time for me…

          Finally I’m disappointed..& changed all my 4 numbers to airtel & aircel.I find aircel very transperant.You will definitely receive call from nodal officer for any complaints about balance deductions.I got my refund in 1day.

          • SS January 26, 2014 8:38 pm

            I was talking about airtel. Idea has really pathetic cc.

            • krish January 26, 2014 10:28 pm

              yes airtel refunds the money if we sent them request. but ads are irritating. aren’t they? for music I use telugump3.org and airtel always push up ads on that website. ported out from airtel due to their high tariff. airtel despite having wide presence digging its hole under it

            • Rama January 27, 2014 5:36 pm

              You must have a look at aircels CC before calling ideas CC pathetic.I am a aircel user in chennai where aircel has the largest subscriber base.First time when I call aircel CC The CC guy pretends as if he is not able to listen to me and cuts my call.The second time also the CC guy does the same.The third when I call and every time thereafter I get an automated message”Our CC service team is experiencing heavy traffic please SMS HELP to 121 and serve yourself Thankyou”.

  • Vickky January 26, 2014 2:56 pm

    I wanted to take phone upto 55k
    Which phone is better Note 3 or iphone5s?
    Screen & apps doesnt matter me
    Nly whatsapp , emails & calling
    Also is it safe to buy from snapdeal.com?
    Also i am from maharahtra circle i am using E71 mobile since last 4 yrs but now its broken so taking new cell….Also i m using BSNL now but sometimes the internet goes i mean it doesnt work…
    So should i port or not and if yes then to which provider?

    • Zeeshan January 26, 2014 5:34 pm

      Vickk6 eveb i m from maharashtra….as u said u are using E71….In Nokia phones (except lumia series) there are issues with the internet for BSNL 3G but in iphone 5s there are no problem for BSNL 3G it works perfectly fine also the speed goes upto 4.6mbps
      And go for iphone 5s nly if u do jailbreak all the apps restriction will be removed but use BSNL 3G nly…and then too if u will have issues with it take !dea 3G nly bcuz its 3G network is availabke at most places insteaf of vodafone….
      Tata 3G is worst here….

    • Rama January 26, 2014 9:11 pm

      You would put anyone in a dilemma over here.Iphone is known for its apps and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is known for its screen.If its only whatsapp,calling,texting etc which matter to you I would recommend any kind of a mid range phone like sony xperia SP.You could save yourself a lot of money in that way unless and until you would wanna show off by buying an expensive 55k phone.As far as iphone 5S and Galaxy Note 3 is concerned I would recommend 5S for sure.

      • Vickky January 27, 2014 12:06 am

        I have ordered iphone 5s over snapdeal.com
        I used nokia e71 for over 5-6yrs and saved a lot of noney to buy a very brandy & royal phone…2nd feb is my birthday….When i saw my saving over 6yrs i was around 65k so i decided now its time to take a good phone…
        And now cost doesnt matter me bcuz when i take a phone i change it after 4-5yrs nly
        iphone 5s comes with 4g so i think it would not get old soon in year or two & apple phones u can see still people are buying iphone 4
        N what @Zeeshan said is right my friend owns iphone 5…i requested him to use for a day….I inserted my BSNL Sim (which i had 2 cut)…From 1pm i am using till now there are no disconnections also speed is 2.4mbps which is quite impressive for me at a cost 125rs 1gb 3G (postpaid)
        I downloaded temple run which is abt 30mb size it got downloaded in 2min 37sec (precised bcuz used stopwatch while downloading)
        In terms of billing i have not faced any problem till now…though the customer care is pathentic but in 6yrs…i have hardly called 10times & that too was for internet disconnection which got solvrd in iphone so continuing BSNL is not bad plan…..
        If thentoo i get problem i saw now in manual search for 3g it shows
        Tata docomo
        So there is no problem for me i can directly switch down to !dea or docomo

      • Vickky January 27, 2014 12:15 am

        ALSO my friend who is using iphone 5 said that my card is that old card with written excel over it (around 6-7yrs old) which may cause lower speed .He is using that BSNL 3G sim…He said me that if i take that BSNL 3G sim then my speed would get incrrased…..Is it real or that friend is fooling me?

        • Darshan Malu January 27, 2014 1:18 am

          Congo Vickky for u r new phone
          And actually it doesnt matter which type of sim r u using.. . what u r sim will give speed the same speed will be given by the BSNL 3G sim
          I think there is specially nano sim provided by BSNL I suggest u to take that….. as u r sim card is so old 1 but its just a suggestion even the present sim will not make a difference

          • Vickky January 27, 2014 1:31 pm

            Visited bsnl office they dont have any idea abt nano sim card
            They asked to some officials then they said if i need it they will get that simcard after 7days and that simcard will cost me 200rs…So i said them no & took BSNL 3G sim…I got 1 person outside who has punching sim card m/c and in that m/c i punched my sim into nano sim
            I got msg today that they have dispatched my phone i will get delievery by 2marrow now lets c…

  • SS January 26, 2014 12:53 pm

    Just, few years back, i was spammed with configuration settings sent by the idiot bsnl. It started around 9 am when i started receiving bsnl live configuration and it didn’t stop. At 1 pm i received 100+ and it continued. I switched off the phone, no help and when spoke to cc, he said to put the sim in a non gprs phone. Oh god! I just switched off the phone for 24 hrs and it corrected itself.

  • dheeraj January 26, 2014 11:23 am

    Same with Videocon d2h.
    once i contacted them at their fb page, provided my customer id for enquiry .
    some idiot saw that and entered my customer id in “videocon refresh a/c” page and came to know my “full name”
    after that he dialed from his mobile number to videocon d2h, cc asked him name , he told my name (which he got from refresh a/c) and he requested them upgrade to ” south platinum hd pack”
    as soon as he made request i received request number to my registered mobile number, i called cc and said i did not make any request & cancelled upgradation….
    never post your customer id @ videcon d2h site.

    • dheeraj January 26, 2014 1:32 pm

      edit: never post your customer id @ videocon facbook page.

  • Tharun George January 26, 2014 10:37 am

    Just check Reliance online recharge portal. Just give any reliance number and it will shows surname of the subscriber.

    If you want to know the full name, just do a Rs 10 recharge. The confirmation page will give full subscriber name.

  • murari mittal January 26, 2014 10:12 am

    its good why u have issue. virgin india mobile use to display all incoming and outgoing number . today also they have in my ac. airtel dont show that details

  • adil January 26, 2014 12:18 am

    i know one more telecom operator who has like this glitch
    i can spam that company any user with loads of sms, can know his balance and activate any pack on his no.

    • Tarun January 26, 2014 12:30 am

      can u mail us the details ?

      • adil January 26, 2014 12:44 am

        hey i wil whatsapp you the detail 2moro

    • raj January 26, 2014 2:12 am

      this is really horrible..if done as prank,it will lead to business closure for that operator across country

      • adil January 26, 2014 9:34 am

        @raj yes we know that.

    • Yo January 26, 2014 1:22 pm

      Even tata docomo simply select any pack they ask u to do it by mobile balance or Other payments Just click any1 no and select pack it will be activatrd and balance will b drducted from d acc

      • adil January 26, 2014 2:12 pm

        without verification code u cant activate the pack
        n yea the code goes on no. which u want to activate pack.