Adhip Ramesh started his professional career at NetApp, after graduating from SJCE, completing his Bachelor’s degree in Electric, Electronics and Communications Engineering. He is also an IIM Lucknow alumnus, from where he completed his MBA in 2013. He founded TrustCheckr in 2017, alongside Shivraj Harsha. TrustCheckr these days provide fraud analytics services and make real-time APIs for their clientele to detect and mitigate fraud.
In his interaction with Voice&Data, Mr. Ramesh highlight how the second wave of COVID-19 also saw an increase in digital payments scams across the country. He also shared his thoughts on the wider digital payments ecosystem in India.
What is your opinion on India’s Digital Payments Ecosystem?
The efforts made by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) towards establishing a digital payments ecosystem in the country are commendable. The initiative has seen unprecedented effects with several Tier 2 cities embracing it, taking a cue from the metros. While the rural areas are yet to catch up on the facility, the Third-Party Application Providers (TPAP) such as PhonePe and GPay and Payment gateways are at the forefront of the economy’s movement towards a cashless mode. This is first-of-its-kind in the world and is super convenient. NPCI’s other initiatives like the e-KYC are reducing the speed breakers and the COVID-19 pandemic became a catalyst in achieving increased cashless, touch-less money transfers. This system has been generating many alternate transaction data for credit underwriting, fraud prevention, risk profiling, etc.
How is United Payments Interface (UPI) different from payments interfaces/platforms across the world?
The rest of the world is taking cues from our UPI platform. It is noteworthy that Google has written to the US Federal Reserve Board detailing the successful model of UPI-based digital payments in our country so as to build ‘FedNow’, a new interbank, real-time gross settlement service for faster digital payments in the US.
This interface has made our lives easier in the sense that there is a seamless flow of transactions ruling out the need to add a beneficiary, no wallet loading and OTP. Transfer of money has become convenient with just a phone number or a UPI ID as well as real time bank to bank payments.
Existing services like PayPal, require the user to add the credit card or debit card. It also involves additional steps to send money to a person. On top of it as on date, the services charge anywhere between 2% to 5% for the services offered. However, UPI money transfers are quick, seamless, easy and without any service charge.
How reliable is India’s digital payments ecosystem in terms of security?
I believe that with simplicity comes more responsibility. Because it is so easy to send money between two phone numbers. Thus, it becomes more important to prevent users from getting scammed. The security in the system’s back-end infrastructure is good. However, psychological security is required with lesser number of steps and an increasing number of first-time users. The social engineering aspects are at the vanguard with respect to security.
What do you think are the primary reasons for any shortcomings in India’s payments ecosystem?
There are a few shortcomings in the payments ecosystem in India due to lack of awareness for peer-to-peer transfers. The government must educate users at the grassroots level. ‘Know before you send money’ is the need of the hour. The system also lacks centralised fraud database like the one TrustCheckr is developing.
As per your report on UPI Fraud Distribution, why do you think that the majority of the fraud is concentrated in the regions that it is?
Our findings pointed out to frauds majorly concentrated in some regions on account of unemployment of the locals and easy availability of sim cards. Interestingly, our recent customer feedback revealed that many employees of scam call centres earned up around INR 60,000 to INR 70,000 every month. These scam call centres are creating more scammers. These scammers earn double the amount of what they may have earned had they gone to ordinary jobs. The lure of more money has made these scams as their livelihood. There is a definite scammer creation process happening across multiple cities in India and the trend is here to stay.
What are your views on people committing UPI fraud in the name of charity, donations, medical aid and so on during this devastating second wave of the pandemic?
Undoubtedly, many dubious people have taken advantage of the current pandemic situation and high sympathy wave. There is a 200% increase in number of COVID-19 related scams, majority of which are pertaining to medical aid including oxygen cylinders and medicines as well as fake vaccination registration. We advise the public against paying an advance before getting the product in hand.
Are there any policy changes that can be done to prevent or reduce the threat of these UPI fraudsters?
Perhaps, the government can come up with an escrow account methodology to prevent scams of high value transactions. Also, we must learn to ‘Doubt the default!’. Always think twice before you send money to strangers. You might want to check their authenticity on TrustCheckr once before sending money to strangers
What is the role of TrustCheckr in mitigating UPI and Digital Payments’ fraud across industries? Is the company targeting any specific industry or market?
We have a website wherein people can come and report scammers or fraudsters. This data will help others in the community when they are searching for similar numbers to get the service. We urge the users to report scammers as and when they come across them.
TrustCheckr has also launched a unique social scanning technology called the Phone Risk Scoring Module. We provide the risk score on the phone numbers to the businesses to be safe and secure. We are targeting FinTechs, payment companies and rental economies to begin with.