As Covid-19 pandemic expands its global footprint, the ongoing lock down has spooked most of us and instigated panic reaction in some aspects of our lives. The e-commerce industry has seen an unexpected and sudden spurt in online ordering specially to stock up staple goods, medications and other essential items.

While we all understand that the ongoing lockdown is necessary in order to contain the spread of infection, people are left with no choice but to rely on the available online payment platforms for their purchases. Banks and fin techs are constantly encouraging people to use their digital channels such net banking, mobile banking, WhatsApp banking and other app-based banking services.

The rapid increment in online transactions, has exposed consumers to the cybercrime where data privacy could be compromised and susceptible to frauds.

So, the one segment of netizens for whom panic usually means brisk business are cyber-crooks. Unlike an actual thief, an online fraudster is a faceless enemy, identified only by an IP address, and thus almost impossible to track, leave alone apprehend.  These cyber-criminals are most benefitted by an outbreak as it helps them carry out their nefarious activities using a variety of innovative means such as spam campaigns revolving around online transactions. In the current environment, there are packs of malicious webpages and links waiting to trap users by invading their devices and steal personal and financial information.

It is imperative that we remain alert and keep our hard-earned money from falling prey to such fraudsters.

Here is a quick checklist for precautions while making online transactions:

Before the transaction:

  • The cardinal rule is to use a credit not a debit card for online payments. Credit cards come with better consumer protection features and payments can be disputed without any immediate debit from the account.
  • Make payments only on web pages that start with ‘https:’ and not ‘http:”. The ‘s’ stands for secured socket layer and provides an extra level of encryption to your transaction.
  • Thirdly, always access your bank account and make transactions from a secured network or Wi-Fi. Avoid public spaces and open Wi-Fi connections.

During the transaction:

  • Ensure the system from which a transaction is made is secured with a reputed anti – virus software or has a procedure to avoid any kind of viruses or fraudulent transactions that may result in online theft.
  • Websites sometimes ask users if they would like to save their card details for future use, and a prudent consumer would not accept such a condition as it exposes personal information to a potential hacking threat.

After transaction precautions:

  • In case you are using a shared network or system, delete all history and cookies from the device so that no passwords, numbers or any personal details are saved.

What if things go wrong?

Banks and payments partners today are lining up billions of rupees and taking innumerable steps in deploying cutting edge technology, to ensure that user data and personal information is protected in every way possible. However, even then there is some likelihood of a smart hacker managing to cut through the system.

Steps to be taken in such an event:

  • Call your bank and block the card in question immediately. This way you can notify them of any fraud in time and have a fair chance of recovering all/part of the lost amount.
  • In case the fraudulent transaction has happened through net banking or a payment app, file a written complaint with the bank along with all the necessary proof of the transaction.
  • Promptly file a police complaint with the local police station. In case of a cyber-fraud, approaching the cyber cell is NOT mandatory.
  • As per RBI rules, resolutions for fraudulent transactions is required to be done within 90 days and banks must reverse the appropriate stolen money to the customer’s bank account.

Lastly, with advances in technology, cometh the pain of keeping up with it. Today, companies are introducing new features, ranging from lucrative discounts and offers to Wi-Fi cards and Near Field Communication (NFC) feature. While these may appeal to the deal-hunter in you, do exercise caution in using these features and make sure that these sites are 100% secure and as far away as possible from the prying eye of a net-criminal.

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