India has moved up from 9th to 4th in the number of spam calls received by users globally, according to a latest report by caller-identification application provider Truecaller.
The move is a direct result of a significant increase in sales and telemarketing calls, which in India make up about 93.5% of all spam calls. The report also showed that one particular company, the identity of which Truecaller did not reveal, was responsible for making over 202 million spam calls in 2021, which translates to about 27,000 calls on an hourly basis.
“We believe that spammers continue to get sophisticated with their methods. As we apply new machine learning and artificial intelligence models, we will be able to detect spammers quicker and more accurately as well,” said Rishit Jhunjhunwala - Chief Product Officer and MD of Truecaller India.
On an average, the Indian mobile phone user receives about 17 spam calls a month, as compared to Brazil, which was the most spammed country, with users receiving 38 calls per month on an average. However, the report showed that scam calls have reduced considerably from 9% in 2020 to 1.4% currently. Financial services took up the second spot with 3.1%.
“To identify a spammer we have to take into consideration the frequency of spam, age of spam, and also recognize if there are bad actors who try to game the system. There is a lot of technology that goes behind recognising the spammer,” said Jhunjhunwala.
One of the most common scams in the country remains on the topic of Know Your Customer, where fraudsters pretend to be a banking executive and request for KYC documents on behalf of the Reserve Bank of India.
Most of the data, Stockholm headquartered Truecaller said, was aggregated anonymously from incoming and outgoing calls from Truecaller users between January 1 till October 31 of this year, with the users helping mark a majority of the calls as spam, and technology at the backend verifying the tags.
“During the second Covid wave the Ministry of Home Affairs’ cybercrime cell provided details of top Covid scams that were being reported through FIRs, through this we were able to mark a majority of Covid-related scams,” added Jhunjhunwala.
The top three countries in the world with maximum spam based calls were Brazil, Peru and Ukraine. Interestingly, USA dropped from second place in 2020 to 20th in 2021, owing to stringent government regulations.
On 1 December, WhatsApp said that it had banned over 11 million Indian users from its platform since May 2021 till October. The tally of Indian accounts banned by WhatsApp now stands at around 11,386,000. Between June 16 and July 31 alone, WhatsApp banned over 3 million accounts, the company said in a report.
Back in February this year, the communications ministry of India said that the Union government is working on a new platform to report unsolicited calls, along with working with law enforcement agencies, banks and others to build a data intelligence unit to target spammers effectively.
India also possesses a National Do Not Call Registry (NDNC), where citizens can send a message to 1909 to register their mobile numbers onto the list.
“The awareness of scammers is we still believe is very low in India. And I think we ourselves are to some extent to blame. The community can play a big part in recognising the spammers,” said Jhunjhunwala.