Spam, scam calls and texts on govt radar | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Spam, scam calls and texts on govt radar

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj
Feb 16, 2021 12:47 AM IST

India is among countries hit hardest by spam calls and messages. Caller ID service application Truecaller said Indians were, among people of 20 countries, the ninth most-affected, being targeted with close to 17 spam calls per month last year.

The Union government is planning a crackdown on spam and financial frauds that are perpetrated over phone calls and text messages, the communications ministry said in a statement on Monday, announcing work on a new platform to report unsolicited calls and messages and a new Data Intelligence Unit that will help coordinate between law enforcement agencies, banks and service providers.

The problem of Vishing has become so acute that the government is considering curtailing telecom operations in Jharkhand’s Jamtara and Haryana’s Mewat.(Reuters/ Representative)
The problem of Vishing has become so acute that the government is considering curtailing telecom operations in Jharkhand’s Jamtara and Haryana’s Mewat.(Reuters/ Representative)

The announcement was made after Union minister for communications Ravi Shankar Prasad held a meeting on Monday to address rising consumer complaints that range from unsolicited text messages and calls to serious financial frauds through Vishing – a strategy in which suspects make calls pretending to be bank officials to access privileged information as passwords and account details.

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“In the meeting, the minister directed the officials to take strict action against erring telemarketers and individuals involved in harassment of telecom subscribers... Further, the minster observed that telecom resources are also being used to carry out financial frauds and dupe the common man of his hard-earned money. Clear directions were issued to the officials to take strict and tangible action to stop such activities immediately,” the ministry said in a statement.

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The problem of Vishing has become so acute that the government is considering curtailing telecom operations in Jharkhand’s Jamtara and Haryana’s Mewat, two regions that have become hotspots from where such scams are being carried out, an official said, asking not to be named.

India is among countries hit hardest by spam calls and messages. Caller ID service application Truecaller said Indians were, among people of 20 countries, the ninth most-affected, being targeted with close to 17 spam calls per month last year. While the overall number of spam calls decreased, Truecaller said in its Insights report, the number of scam communications jumped.

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“Based on community feedback and internal reports, we have noticed a very particular type of scam in India that seems to gain traction each year. We are talking, of course, about KYC and OTP related scams... The scammers try to hook unsuspecting people using either phone calls or SMS and the tactic is always the same: they will try to get you to give up sensitive information about your financials or force you to you reveal a secret OTP with the ultimate aim of extracting money from your bank accounts or digital wallets,” it said.

People in India can sign up for a Do Not Disturb (DND) registry that telemarketers need to take into account, but a lack of enforcement has meant that the problem of spam persists nonetheless. “The issue is not something which is very new,” an official aware of the plans said, asking not to be named. “There are couple of issues linked with it. One is unsolicited calls and messages even though there are TRAI guidelines. Those registered for DND also get these calls. This is a nuisance created by registered telemarketers.”

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The official added that there are certain unregistered people who also make such calls and need to be kept in check. “The other aspect is financial frauds,” the official added. “Such a nuisance is being created as people are misusing the telecom resource.” The official pointed out that recently, Jamtara and Mewat have become hotspots from where frauds are being carried out. “The minister has sought a technical solution. A subscriber should be able to register a complaint and it has to be investigated.”

The Digital Intelligence Unit (DIU) will act as a nodal agency. “The DIU will coordinate with various LEAs (law enforcement agencies), financial institutions and telecom service providers in investigating any fraudulent activity involving telecom resources,” the statement said.

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