Users should be conscious of their digital actions: OLX India
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Users should be conscious of their digital actions: OLX India


Safety is critical to growth in internet use and online transactions more so now as more people are using various platforms to connect with buyers and sellers.

At platforms like OLX it gets more complex as people connect online but the final transaction is mostly offline between the seller and the buyer. This year’s theme for Safer Internet Day (SID) — ‘Together for a better Internet’— tries to highlight risks and underscores the need for digital safety for all.

In an e-mail interview, Lavanya Chandan, director, OLX India says, “SID is a moment for us to evaluate if we have made a significant contribution in making the internet a more inclusive, equal and safer place for all its users.” He discusses safety measures adopted by the platform, the role that users play and related aspects. Edited excerpts:

On OLX strangers meet to complete transactions. What’s the quantum of fraud you have seen and what are the most common types of frauds?

Transacting on a C2C classifieds platform like ours typically involves two stages. Users use the platform to make the initial contact and after initial negotiation, meet and transact offline. While we provide safety enablers, users do realize our limited involvement in the transaction, and therefore in unfortunate events of frauds users don’t often report the details of the frauds to us. Therefore, it would be difficult for us to quantify the actual numbers.

Having said that, over the last year, given the use of technology and AI, we have been able to improve detection rates of high propensity fraudulent advertisements at the posting stage and therefore been able to improve content quality. In Q3 of 2020, the total rejection rate of ads went up to 29% from 24% in Q2.

We typically encounter instances of fraud at the payment stage or at the stage that the users meet. The most common among them are advance payment and UPI frauds. Advance payment frauds involve unsuspecting users paying for products before receiving them. Usual modus operandi of fraudsters involves inspiring trust through assuming fake identifications. UPI frauds involve exploiting the vulnerability of a user’s unfamiliarity with UPI platforms. Money is syphoned from the bank account of a user in the pretense of making a payment, basically disguising a credit request as a payment notification.

What steps are you taking to reduce frauds?

We see OLX’s role in preventing these frauds as threefold: to prevent fraudsters from using the platform, educating users on how to transact safely on the platform, and finally at availing information to the law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice.

We invest in educating our users, on the platform and off it, on how to transact safely. Even prior to the first contact between users, we display safety tips which forewarn them against the typical pitfalls, such as to not make advance payments, not share their personal information, and always meet in a public place for transacting.

We have also invested in bolstering the number of content quality analysts who scan through the platform to screen suspicious ads or users.

The strongest lever to prevent fraud in the ecosystem is consumer education. For this reason, we have invested in undertaking consumer safety campaigns across digital platforms and plan to contribute to the larger issue of internet safety in the times to come.

On average how many transactions happen daily? What tools has OLX invested in to make them safe?

In terms of quantum, our automobile category, which is one of our largest categories, records over 20,000 cars being listed every day for sale and the demand for pre-owned cars has risen by 130% in 2020, while in our consumer goods categories there has been an increase of nearly 150 per cent for computers and laptops in Q3 2020. Our presence across more than 4,000 Indian cities and the massive demand on the platform helps us enable users to conclude a massive number of transactions every day.

A few steps we have taken in order to bolster trust and enable users to transact safely through the platform include login verification (OTP-led); technology tools like AI; manual content checks and tech backed trust mechanism. Soon buyers/sellers will be able to access price recommendations while buying/selling used cars which enable them to identify the appropriate price of a car and stay wary of deals which offer them below-market deals. The mechanism will also be backed by a KYC verification process.

How can users ensure their safety?

There are multiple ways in which users can ensure that they can be safe while transacting:

  • Paying attention to safety tips can assist them in identifying fraudulent ads or users on the platform.

  • Users should restrict sharing information more than is necessary to enable the transaction.

  • Users must regularly update their passwords and avoid replicating them across internet platforms.

With the accelerated adoption of internet-based services in recent times, I would encourage users to be conscious of their digital actions and footprint. Stay cautious – like you do in the real world, the online world is only an extension after-all.

What new initiatives are you taking to make the platform fraud-free, better?

We have a pipeline of features to be deployed through this year which includes rolling out a stringent verification mechanism in the automobile category. This would include price recommendations for buying/selling cars, verified and inspected cars being listed on the platform and only verified users being allowed on the platform.

Our plan is to further strengthen relationships with law enforcement agencies to support their cyber awareness initiatives and to ensure that fraudsters are held accountable for their actions.





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