The Phone Number Heist: How Indian Companies Exploit Users and the Urgent Need for Regulation


Our phone numbers, once a private line of communication, have become a battleground. Indian companies and websites employ deceptive tactics to collect them, often leading to an onslaught of unwanted telemarketing calls. This pervasive practice not only disrupts our lives but also raises serious privacy concerns. It’s time for stricter laws and a cultural shift to stop this data exploitation.

The Deceptive Web:

Indian users encounter a web of deceit when navigating online services. Here are some common tactics companies use to trick us into surrendering our phone numbers:

  • Mandatory Registration: Signing up for a seemingly innocuous service, like booking a movie ticket or ordering food online, often requires a phone number. Users are presented with a misleading “mandatory” label, leaving them with no choice but to comply.
  • Hidden Costs: Free trials or “limited-time offers” might appear phone number-free, but upon closer inspection, the fine print reveals it’s mandatory for “verification purposes.”
  • Pre-ticked Boxes: Sneaky companies pre-check a box indicating consent for receiving promotional calls or messages. Unaware users might simply overlook this detail during the signup rush.
  • Deceptive Opt-Ins: Vague language like “stay updated with offers” or “receive important information” masks the real purpose – bombarding users with telemarketing calls.

The Aftermath: A Telemarketing Nightmare:

Once our phone numbers are obtained, the real exploitation begins. Companies sell this data to telemarketing firms, leading to a barrage of unwanted calls. These calls often:

  • Disrupt Our Lives: They interrupt our work, leisure time, and even sleep.
  • Promote Scams: Many telemarketing calls are from fraudsters pushing fake investment schemes or impersonating legitimate companies to steal personal information.
  • Cause Distress: The constant barrage can be stressful, especially for the elderly or vulnerable individuals.

Beyond Annoyance: Privacy Concerns:

The phone number issue goes beyond mere annoyance. It’s a privacy violation. Our phone numbers are linked to a wealth of personal information. Companies selling this data create a profile on us, making us vulnerable to:

  • Targeted Advertising: This data is used to bombard us with intrusive, personalized ads across platforms.
  • Identity Theft: In the wrong hands, phone numbers can be used for identity theft or other malicious activities.

Naming and Shaming:

While it’s difficult to pinpoint every culprit, some companies have gained notoriety for deceptive data collection practices. Here are a few examples (note: this is not an exhaustive list and does not imply guilt):

  • E-commerce platforms that make phone numbers mandatory for seemingly minor actions.
  • Food delivery apps that require phone verification for every order.
  • Travel booking websites that hide phone number requirements in the fine print.
  • Free classifieds websites that bombard users with telemarketing calls after listing an item.

The Urgent Need for Regulation:

India’s existing laws like the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regulations and the Information Technology Act are inadequate to address this issue effectively. We need stricter measures, including:

  • Opt-in, Not Opt-out: Companies should obtain explicit user consent for telemarketing calls and messages. This should be a clear, opt-in checkbox, not a pre-ticked box users have to uncheck.
  • Stronger Penalties: Hefty fines for companies found violating data privacy laws can be a deterrent.
  • A National Do Not Call Registry: A centralized registry where users can register their numbers to avoid telemarketing calls should be established and enforced stringently.

The Road Ahead:

The onus also lies with us, the users. We need to be more vigilant:

  • Read the Fine Print: Before giving out your phone number, carefully read the terms and conditions.
  • Use Temporary Numbers: Consider virtual phone numbers or disposable phone number services for online registrations.
  • Report Violations: If you receive unsolicited telemarketing calls, report them to TRAI or the relevant authorities.


The rampant selling of phone numbers is a blatant disregard for user privacy and a source of immense frustration. By demanding stricter laws, practicing digital vigilance, and fostering a culture of data protection, we can reclaim control of our phone numbers and silence the telemarketing nightmare. This will create a more secure and respectful online environment for everyone.

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