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India most affected by spam calls, biggest spammers are telcos: Truecaller

A Truecaller user in India, on an average, receives 22.6 spam calls per month, which is the highest compared to 20 other countries plagued by spam calls, according to Truecaller Insights 2017 report. Spam calls in India mostly originate from operators providing telecom services, and from companies providing financial services. A large part of the spam calls from operators are used for advertising special offers, free data, and unlimited calling packs, the report said.

Since January 1st, 2017 to May 31st, 2017, Truecaller users worldwide received over 5.5 billion spam calls. Apart from telcos and financial companies, Truecaller classifies spammers into 9 categories based on the industry/vertical they originate from including Telemarketing, Scam, Insurance, Debt Collection, Political, and Health.

  • Operator and Financial companies jointly make up 63% of all spam call that an Indian user received in 2017.
  • Nuisance calls (20%): A broad spectrum of calls including unwanted, disturbance for users, harassment, pranks.
  • Telemarketing spam (13%): Promotional calls from companies, surveys, political/robo calls, new client outreach for services, subscriptions, etc.
  • Scam (9%): Fraud attempts, money swindling, unknown links, etc.
  • Insurance(3%): Companies selling insurance products and policies.

Why spam calls are on the rise in India

Going by the Truecaller report, Indian users are constantly bombarded by spam calls and there isn’t an absolute fix in the near future either. TRAI has an option to manually block these unsolicited calls and even launched an app to manage them. The app has a complaint section, but going by the comments section on Play Store, the complaint portal isn’t up to the mark, and resolving complaints takes a lot of time. The app crowdsources details about spam calls from users–subscribers themselves flag the calls. This data can be used to identify spammers, but the sheer amount of spam calls could be the reason why user complaints against spam callers aren’t effective to filter them out.

It’s difficult to fully eradicate spam, mostly because bulk databases of phone numbers are available for purchase online. In the recent Jio data leaks, the accused had allegedly gained access to a large database of Jio phone numbers. It’s not yet clear how the accused person was able to get access to the database.

TRAI has specific guidelines and termination charges for SMS when companies use the telecom subscriber base to advertise to advertise their products. But it isn’t the same when it comes to phone calls. The regulator currently fines operators for unsolicited spam calls, but it could also look at other options like increasing interconnection charges for promo calls, cancelling phone numbers that indulge in unsolicited telemarketing, better complaint monitoring system, and placing daily the limits on number of promo calls, etc., as seen in case of SMS guidelines.

Spam rates in other countries 

Sample data and research methodology
Truecaller has 100 million users in India. The company said that the data in its report was “aggregated anonymously from incoming calls that either has been marked as spam by users – or automatically been flagged by Truecaller” during the period of January 1st, 2017 to May 31st, 2017.

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