46% Indian WhatsApp users surveyed facing an onslaught of unsolicited audio and video calls; Majority say they are coming from international numbers
- ● 83% of respondents state that they have been getting more such calls in the last 30 days
- ● 59% getting such calls confirm that they are primarily coming from international numbers
May 17, 2023, New Delhi: Over the last few weeks, WhatsApp users in India have taken to social media in a big way to report the onslaught of audio and video calls on whatsapp they have been receiving, in many cases a missed call. On the pretext of offering easy-to-do jobs like clicking likes on YouTube videos, fraudsters have been making calls from numbers of countries like Ethiopia, Malaysia, Kenya, Vietnam, etc. The country code of these calls does not necessarily mean that the calls are also originating from the countries. Union Minister of state, MEITY, Rajeev Chandrasekhar is reported to have stated that the IT ministry will be sending a notice to WhatsApp on the issue of spam calls from unknown international numbers as the onus of ensuring the safety of the users lies with the digital platform. PTI reported the minister as saying that the government is also examining how these WhatsApp numbers are being identified and accessed.
In its defense, the widely used messaging and audio/video calling platform in a statement said, “…we are fully aligned with the government’s goal of keeping users safe….” The company statement pointed to its “stay safe with WhatsApp” campaign to educate users about the in-built safety features on the platform like two-step verification, block, report and privacy controls. The Meta group company has also assured that it has ramped up its AI and ML systems to bring down such incidents significantly.
Given the gravity of the issue and hundreds of citizens reporting this barrage of audio and video calls from unknown numbers on LocalCircles in the last two weeks, the platform decided to conduct a national survey to assess the magnitude of the issue. The survey received nearly 23,000 responses from WhatsApp users located in 323 districts of India. 63% respondents were men while 37% respondents were women. 45% respondents were from tier 1, 32% from tier 2 and 23% respondents were from tier 3, 4 & rural districts.
46% of WhatsApp users surveyed confirm that they have been facing an onslaught of audio or video calls from unknown numbers; 83% state that they have been getting them in the last 30 days
The first question in the survey asked respondents, “Have the number of WhatsApp audio and video calls from unknown callers/numbers increased for you in the last 30 days?” Over 11,000 responded to this query with 46% of WhatsApp users surveyed confirming that they have been facing an onslaught of audio or video calls from unknown numbers; 83% that they have been getting them in the last 30 days. Breakdown of data shows that 21% of respondents have witnessed no change in the last 30 days; 17% shared that such audio or video calls have increased by up to 20%; 25% claimed that it has increased by 20-50%; a small 4% of respondents indicated that it has increased by 50-100%; 8% of respondents indicated an increase of 100-500% and what is alarming is that 4% of those surveyed shared that the unsolicited audio and video calls have increased more than 500%. Another 4% of respondents, who had not been receiving such calls earlier, shared that they are now being targeted and have been getting a few calls. Only 17% of the respondents shared that they are “luckily not getting them.
59% of respondents confirm that the unsolicited Whatsapp audio and video calls they are receiving are primarily coming from unknown international numbers
The next survey question asked respondents “What are the types of unknown numbers from which you have been receiving the various audio and video calls in the last 30 days?” This query received 12,862 responses with 59% confirming that these calls are primarily coming from international numbers. The data shows that 37% of respondents are receiving audio or video calls from mostly international numbers and some domestic numbers; 23% are receiving such scam calls mostly from domestic numbers and some international numbers; 22% are getting calls only from international numbers and 18% only from domestic numbers.
In summary, it is clear from the survey that the menace of audio and video Whatsapp calls from unknown numbers has exponentially risen in the last few weeks. The survey findings show that 46% of WhatsApp users surveyed have been facing an onslaught of audio or video calls from unknown numbers; 83% state that they have been getting more such calls in the last 30 days. While 59% of respondents have confirmed that these calls are primarily coming from international numbers, another 23% are receiving scam calls mostly from domestic numbers and some international numbers. There is a very real possibility of these calls originating from India with international numbers being used to mask the Indian number. It is time the authorities and regulators step into the picture to probe and curb this menace that holds threat of possible financial, sextortion and other frauds with possible widespread consequence. Many such instances are reported regularly on social media and to the authorities at various levels. If this means that the Government has to bring in regulation around OTT calling, so be it. As a platform, Whatsapp must not only apply AI/ML but also make it easier for a user to report such activity and if multiple users report a scamming number in a short period, take appropriate blocking actions. In addition, Whatsapp must also examine and transparently share what it is making available to advertisers via its Whatspp business offering and if scammers are misusing that avenue to make unsolicited calls to Whastapp users. With how integrated Whatsapp has become with the daily life of Indians over the last 10 years, it is critical that its safe and trustworthiness is maintained.
The survey received nearly 23,000 responses from WhatsApp users located in 323 districts of India. 63% respondents were men while 37% respondents were women. 45% respondents were from tier 1, 32% from tier 2 and 23% respondents were from tier 3, 4 & rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.