For 24-year-old Akshita Arora, spam calls are simply a part and parcel of daily life. The Delhi-based auditor is on the receiving end of nearly half a dozen such phone calls, usually in the middle of work, every single day. And while the Truecaller application on her phone usually flags these unwanted intrusions, they sometimes slip through the cracks.
One such instance happened in May 2021. Arora received a call from an individual posing as an Airtel employee. A quick offer to upgrade her phone plan and an OTP later, the call ended. That’s when things began to unravel.
Hours later, Arora’s phone number stopped working. In her email inbox, an unread email from her bank informed Arora that her net banking password had been changed. “I didn’t realise all of this was happening until the next morning when my phone number still didn’t work. We ran to the bank and asked them to freeze the account,” says Arora. Luckily for her, the scamsters had only withdrawn Rs 10 ($0.13) from her account before she realised the breach.
Arora and many others like her receive such messages and calls everyday. The individual on the other end is usually selling a service, running a scam or doing both. Frustratingly, subscribers continue to be pestered even after explicitly opting out of such calls.
It’s been nearly 15 years since India set up a National Do Not Call Registry (NDNC). The move was meant to protect subscribers from endless telemarketing calls. The premise was fairly simple—when a subscriber adds their phone number to the NDNC, all services are explicitly informed that the number is not to be bothered with unsolicited communications. In 2010, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) went a step further, announcing it would fine fine Moneylife TRAI to impose hefty penalties on unwanted calls from Tuesday Read more firms that continued to spam NDNC numbers.
When this failed to curb the menace, Trai revisited the Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations in 2018. This time around, Trai unveiled an ambitious framework to curb the menace, using the buzziest of 2018’s buzzwords—blockchain technology. This would be used to both monitor the telemarketing space as well as keep track of user consent.
But as the likes of Arora bear testament to, not much has changed. Many of the blockchain interventions Trai mandated are still in the works, with telcos missing their deadline of March 2022. Unsurprisingly, according to one survey survey Mint 74% of people in Trai's DND list still getting pesky messages Read more , 74% of the people registered in the regulator Trai’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ list still get unwanted SMSes.