Pay it Online
Fear of frauds keeping you away from online payment systems? Here’s how to use them safely.
The past two years are proof of how technology has transformed our lives. We conduct meetings from our living rooms, buy things online, and even learn how to cook with the internet. Technology has modernised the Indian banking system and it has made it possible for people to manage their accounts without visiting the branch (well, almost). Many individuals fear using the internet for financial transactions. It is natural for humans to fear change, but regular news reports about online banking frauds don’t make it any easier for them to trust this medium. However, if you exercise a little caution, you’d be amazed at just how easy it is!
Digital payment replaces the physical exchange of money. Both parties — the payer and the payee — use an electronic(online) medium to exchange money. Credit and debit cards, Aadhaar-enabled payment systems, UPI, mobile wallets, point of sale terminals, internet banking, and mobile banking come under this umbrella.
Two breakthroughs in the past 10 years have revolutionised the digital payment business. Firstly, increased access to high-speed internet networks via mobile phones or personal computers/ laptops. Secondly, reduced hardware costs made computers affordable for middle-class Indians. This led to a spike in computer literacy in these strata of society.
The use of plastic money i.e., debit and credit cards at the point of sale remains one of the most popular methods of digital payments. However, the Reserve Bank of India-regulated Unified Payments Interface (UPI), is fast gaining popularity. Launched in April 2016, this platform enables the transfer of money instantly between two bank accounts using a mobile phone. According to the latest National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) data, UPI recorded 2.23 billion transactions amounting to INR 4,16,176.21 crore in December 2020. Additionally, according to an estimation made by RBI in 2020, digital payments are expected to jump to 1.5 billion transactions, worth INR 15 trillion a day in five years. The holy trinity of smartphones, the internet and apps make it possible to purchase anything and everything. The unavailability of liquid currency during demonetisation (2016) pushed the common man to adapt to digital payment mechanisms. After demonetisation, even the local vegetable vendor started accepting digital payments through Google Pay, Paytm etc.
As you develop advanced systems, you also create space for challenges. Cybercrime has created a challenge for the digital payment business. There are three major ways in which digital payment frauds occur.
1. Phishing attacks use deceptive, cloned emails and websites to gather personal information.
2. Cloning of credit or debit cards where your card information is duplicated and used fraudulently.
3. Getting the user to disclose their one-time password (OTP) using deceptive methods. Eg, pretending to be a bank employee verifying your account.
The only way to protect people from falling victim to these crimes is to create awareness. Banks and the government continue to work towards that end. To curb payment frauds, banks and digital payment platforms have introduced more advanced security protocols like two-factor authorisations, numerical grids on the cards etc. However, for all these to work, we have to take some precautions too. The checklist below will help you be safe in future transactions :
- Avoid saving card details: Many portals or websites ask you to save card details for future payments. While this sounds convenient, it puts your information at risk if the portal were to get hacked.
- Secure your passwords: Did you know the most popular password in the world is ‘Password’ followed by ‘abcd1234’? Your internet banking password can’t be that simple. A weak internet banking password is like leaving the door to your house wide open! Don’t choose easily guessable passwords like birthdays, names of family members or pets. These days most services force you to choose an alphanumeric password with at least one special character. It is a good practice to follow even when you aren’t forced to do so. Never share your password with anyone. Don’t write it down anywhere and never email, SMS or Whatsapp it to someone. No employee at your bank is authorised to ask for your password for any purpose. If you get a call asking you for these details, immediately notify your bank. One-time passwords (OTP) are highly recommended to complete any transactions as they provide an extra layer of security.
- Look for SSL encryption: While using a payment method online, check if the payment page is HTTPS-based. The beginning of the URL or web address of the payment page should show “https://” or a Lock icon if it is encrypted.
- Don’t download unverified apps on your smartphone: Always download apps from the official app stores. Cracked apps can allow hackers to access your phone. This gives them access to your SMS, email and banking accounts.
- Email safety: Open or respond to trusted mails only. In case of emails from banks, make sure not to sign in to any new window that pops up. Verify the email id to check if the communication is genuine.
- UPI safety: If someone sends you a payment link, do not click on it or enter any details. Remember, there’s no mandate that you have to pay someone to be able to receive money. While transacting on UPI, remember that you don’t need to enter your PIN to receive money. If someone who is supposed to pay you asks for a pin to be entered, double-check before proceeding.
- Phone security: If you receive a call from your bank or your credit card company, verify if the caller is genuine. If they ask for any OTP or passwords, report the number immediately. In case they ask to verify information, first insist on verifying their identity and their position with the bank.
Digital payments are convenient, in some cases, cost-effective, and highly efficient. If you’re alert and follow security protocols, you’d be surprised at how it can simplify your life. Don’t be afraid, click away!
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The author is an IT professional
(As told to Koustubh Joshi.)