The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has written to Alkesh Kumar Sharma, secretary at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, highlighting the rise of online scams due to fraudulent ads on Google search and urging adequate regulation of false advertisements to ensure the safety of Indians on the internet.
In its letter, the industry body points to a recent incident of fraudsters advertising numbers disguised as customer support numbers of Mobikwik on Google. “The topmost result of a Mobikwik helpline number on the search engine is, in fact, a fraudulent link – through which scamsters ask for UPI transfers or send UPI pull requests – meant to swindle help seekers,” it said.
ADIF further highlights a major concern: tech firms, such as Google, charge hefty fees to host these ads and make profits from them.
Calling attention to the fact that the problem is not simply financial losses but also of mental stress and trauma inflicted yearly on Indians, the letter noted that these fraudulent ads contribute a significant part of the revenue of these tech firms all the while exposing users to high risks.
“The blatant misuse of their platform by big tech firms is going unchecked and Indian citizens are paying a price for it – what is more is that the tech giant is using this to make profits. A major concern is the lack of adequate regulation of false advertisements and there’s an urgent need to protect the safety of Indians on the internet,” Sijo Kuruvilla George, executive director of ADIF, said.
Through their letter, ADIF has requested an audience with the MeitY secretary to help develop a robust mechanism for making a safe internet space accessible in the country.