How safe is your debit cards and what you can do to improve it…

The big story doing the rounds is that nearly 3.2 million debit cards may have been endangered and the data might have fallen into the wrong hands! The exact modus operandi is still not clear. Part of the blame has been put on Hitachi Payment Services, where the breach is supposed to have occurred. There are also allegations that this was a response from Pakistan based hackers to the surgical strikes carried out by India late last month. But these allegations are hardly material. What is important is that in an increasingly cashless economy, consumers are exposed to a new set of cyber risks. The focus therefore should be how well can banking customers protect themselves? Here is a 5 point primer …

Keep your debit card PIN number secure…

Never leave your debit card PIN number written on a piece of paper. After all, it is a 4 digit number and you do not need to make a big effort to remember it. If you want to write it down for safety purposes, just use a cryptic code language and only you should know the logic. Secondly, make it a point to constantly keep changing your ATM PIN at regular intervals. Changing your PIN frequently can substantially reduce the chances of fraud. Thirdly, let your PIN number not be too obvious. Many people follow the DDMM format of their date of birth as their PIN number. That is just too obvious. Let it be a little more difficult to guess.

Use bank dedicated ATMs that are guarded and avoid ATMs that are open…

Most ATMs do not have proper guards to ensure that people follow the basic rules in an ATM. Unmanned ATMs are where most of the frauds occur as it is easy for hackers to install malware or card Photostats at such ATMs. Also ensure that the CCTV camera at the ATM is functioning as that provides an added level of safety for you. You can go a step further by setting ATM limits for withdrawal per transaction as well as daily limits so that you can limit your loss. Ensure that you sign up for SMS debit alerts as that will immediately alert you to any potential fraudulent transaction.

Be extra careful when you use your debit cards at shopping malls…

Today most of the debit cards issued by banks are chip cards wherein you need to input your 4-digit PIN number to authorize your transaction. This opens up a new risk as you need to input the PIN in an open area. When you input your PIN ensure that you cover the keyboard to avoid any onlooker reading your PIN number. Don’t ever leave the card unattended at the table and instruct the biller to ensure that the card is not left on the table with the back frame up. This will ensure that the CVV is clearly visible. Remember, if someone sees your CVV and card number, they can easily use it for an online transaction. You can insist to your bank that no transaction slip is to be accepted unless it is signed by you. This will act as an additional safety net for you.

Using your debit card for online transactions…

India being a debt-averse country, the usage of debit cards is substantially higher than the usage of credit cards. Most of the online transactions are executed using debit cards. Typically, when you use your debit card on a website, you only require the debit card number, your name and the CVV number to complete the transaction. That means if your card is lost, anybody can easily misuse the card. The way out is to use an extra level of authentication. You can request that every transaction must be authenticated by a one-time password (OTP). This OTP is sent to your mobile number and only after the OTP is entered will the transaction be authorized. It is always better to have one additional level of authentication using your registered mobile or registered email id.

Avoid phishing emails and blank calls for data…

This is a common problem these days. Apart from some African dictator who wants to give you £10 million, there are other emails which offer you incentives for revealing your card number, PIN number etc. Don’t fall for such baits. These are only used to facilitate frauds. Most Indian banks keep sending you warning messages not to fall for such blank calls and phishing mails. Even when you are filling up your personal data on any website, avoid sharing your bank details unless you or on a reputed payment gateway. Most reputed websites will also offer you the facility to store your card number and CVV on their website for future use. While this may simplify your next transaction, it is best avoided.

Remember, ignorance of law is no excuse! Hence you need to take proper care of your debit and credit card and ensure its security. However, if any loss is caused due to a system fault at the bank’s end, you can claim compensation from the bank. If the bank refuses to compensate, you can approach the RBI and also the consumer court for redressing your problem. But to begin with, a little more caution and care can go a long way in making your online banking experience safer!

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