Mon, 18 Mar, 2019

Spams and Scams

15th March 2019, 03:42 Hrs

 JAY JOSHI


Consumer Rights Day is perhaps the best occasion to take a look at how the markets in India are changing, and along with them what issues the customers are facing today. After the rise and spread of Internet, an increasing number of Indians are now shopping online. The number of Indians shopping online is estimated to be around 500 million as of 2018, and the turnover of the Indian ecommerce industry is expected to grow up to around Rs 150 billion by 2022. 

Of course it has its conveniences, but the virtual realm is also sprawling with scamsters. What’s more thousands of people. A total of 972 cases of ATM and online frauds were registered in India in 2018, with the banks losing around Rs 109.75 crores to such frauds in fiscal year 2018. Now, most of us are pretty adapt at recognising and ignoring mails and calls assuring winnings that look too good to be true. Still, there are people out there that do fall for these scams. Why and how does that happen? 

Experts say it mostly happens to people who are new to technology, and people who think they are smart. Pune-based digital marketing consultant Faizan Ansari concurs with this line of thought. “Firstly, there is more possibility of having frauds online than in real world, because you do not need physical presence. People fall for online scams mainly because of lack of awareness about where and how to purchase products in the online realm,” explains Ansari. “Secondly, most deals offered by scamsters seem too good to be true. People get swayed by offers that promise big gains at minimal cost. It’s a gamble, and people who think they might win big, end up taking it.” 

However online frauds are not just limited to small-time crooks trying to run off with your money. A number of sellers selling through big companies also indulge in various dubious tactics to boost the sale of their products, informs Ansari. “One of the things these sellers to is to hire paid reviews. In exchange of money, they will flood online portals with favourable reviews of their products, which will influence customers into buying them,” the marketing consultant outlines. “Sometimes, the sellers themselves will create fake user accounts and buy their own products so that their product shows good sales and thus gets good visibility on online portals.”  

Information suggests that majority of urban population is resistant to scams, but there is a need to do spread awareness among rural areas where Internet penetration is fast deepening,” says Ansari. He further underlines that big e-commerce companies and banks need to work more to raise awareness about these issues. “Only sending messages to customers stating ‘we do not ask for passwords or money over phone’ is not enough,” says Ansari. 

On the other hand, Roland Martins, the co-ordinator of Goa Civic and Consumer Action Network believes that the responsibility to check online frauds lies with the government. “The government needs to verify which websites and companies are genuine,” says Martins. He also adds that the efficiency of system charged with tackling cases of online frauds has to improve. 

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