The central government will set up a digital intelligence unit (DIU) as a nodal agency to deal with complaints of unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) and cases of financial fraud, especially in the digital payments space, an official release from the Ministry of Telecommunications said.
At a high level meeting presided by Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Ministry decided that apart from the DIU at the nodal level, a Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection (TAFCOP) will also be set up at all the 22 license service area level.
“The main function of DIU will be to coordinate with various LEAs (law enforcement agencies), financial institutions and telecom service providers in investigating any fraudulent activity involving telecom resources,” the Ministry said in its release.
The issue of UCC has been a major area of concern for the Telecom Ministry as well as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). Trai has from time to time fined telecom operators for not following its directives on stopping UCC.
In November last year, the telecom sector regulator told the Delhi High Court that it had imposed fines of up to Rs 30 crore on telecom companies such as state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, and private telecom companies such as Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm for not putting enough measures to control UCC, which occurred over their networks between April and June 2020.
In the high level meeting on Monday, Prasad asked senior Ministry officials to meet all telecom service providers and ask them to ensure strict compliance of the directives issues with respect to UCC.
“ In case of any violation, it was proposed to impose financial penalty against the tele-marketers including disconnection of resources in case of repetitive violations,” the Ministry said, adding that a web and mobile application as well as a SMS-based system shall be developed for effective redressal of complaints.
Apart from UCC, the rise in fraudulent digital transactions was also discussed in the meeting, officials said. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had, in its annual report for 2018-19, said frauds related to misuse of credit and debit cards, cloning of identities, spam amounted to Rs 220 crore in the year, and was slated to rise unless proper mitigation measures were taken.
Special strategies, including blocking of telecom operations in regions, such as Jamtara and Mewat, which are infamous for running digital fraud transaction centres, shall also be taken, the Ministry said.
In August last year, Haryana’s Faridabad police arrested five people from Jamtara for being involved in a racket involving e-SIM frauds. Those arrested had then told the police that by swapping e-SIM of Apple’s iPhones, funds were transferred into wallets provided by PhonePe, OlaMoney, Paytm Payments Bank and Airtel Payments Bank, which were then again routed into other bank accounts all over the country before being taken out.