In today’s fast changing world, almost everything is online. During our school days in the 1990’s, this term ‘online’ was rarely heard. But in today’s world this term is ubiquitous and has a different meaning altogether from what is given in the Oxford English dictionary. With multiple versions of lockdowns since March this year (2020), the term ‘online’ has gained greater significance. In fact, Work from Home is being looked at from a different angle now, even though video calling and video conferences were fairly common before COVID-19 struck the world, and getting homework on Watsapp was the last thing kids expected. Well, this magazine is online too!!

As the number of on road motor vehicles in urban areas rose after the First World War, the incidents of motor accidents also increased. However, there was no compulsory form of motor insurance anywhere in the world during that time. This meant that injured victims would seldom get any compensation in an accident, and drivers often faced considerable costs for damage to their car and property. A compulsory car insurance scheme was first introduced in the United Kingdom and now every country has a compulsory motor insurance in one or the other form. The same applies to the ‘online’ world. As more and more people become part of this virtual world, the number of online accidents or online frauds/crimes are bound to increase. However, the only difference between road accidents and online frauds is that former has insurance and the latter has none.  

Thanks to Netflix, by now everyone netizen would have heard of Jamtara, a sleepy town in Jharkhand. If semi-literate boys with smartphones can unleash cybercrimes from paddy fields then definitely its time we realise ‘sabka number aayega’ – everyone’s turn shall come.  This does not mean we get intimidated and stop using online facilities for financial transactions which are otherwise very convenient.

In India most  car drivers wear seat belts especially while driving in the cities, as not wearing seat belt is a punishable offence. If given an option no one would wear a seat belt. Similarly, most of us today use online banking and payments systems, but seldom do we use the ‘seat belts’. How many of us diligently check the SMS in our mobile phones? Especially, if the messages get stored under ‘notifications’ in the mobile phone. Everyone must have received a SMS like this from a bank. “Hello, you have just logged in to Internet banking from a new device or browser. Pls call helpline number immediately if you have not.” ….

As per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines for banks, a customer’s entitlement to zero liability shall arise where the deficiency (in case of unauthorised transaction/ third party breach) lies neither with the bank nor with the customer but lies elsewhere in the system, and the customer notifies the bank within three working days of receiving the communication from the bank regarding the unauthorised transaction. Zero liability here implies that the customer gets full compensation for the loss due to unauthorised transaction/ third party breach. As the customer delays further from three working days, the customer’s liability increases, and the final compensation may depend on commercial bank’s internal policy/rules. The weblink to mentioned RBI guideline is here (https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11040&Mode=0).

Therefore, please spending a few minutes every day to clear SMS on your phone will go a long way in minimising pecuniary losses. If one does not inculcate a habit of checking SMSs regularly, she/he may have difficulty in getting full compensation in case of an online fraud. The banks often take a plea that the customer was informed through SMS.

Apart from the regularly checking SMS, there are a lot many common-sensical ‘seat belts’ one should wear while driving ‘online’, whether it for online financial transactions or for using social media.

  1. As a thumb rule, do not reveal personal details when someone calls you and seeks such details. Beware, even if they reveal some of your personal details to convince you that they are calling from bank or financial institution. It’s not a big deal nowadays to extract a person’s date of birth, father’s/mother’s name, etc. from the internet.
  2. Facebook, Gmail, etc. won’t mind if you register with a wrong date of birth or an acronym for your name. They don’t ask you to show your birth certificate after all.
  3. When you create an account on any website or app (fb for example), it is either through a mobile no. or an email id. When you create an account through your email id, the password you create for the website or app need not be same as password for your email id. If they are same, change it now.
  4. When was the last time you have changed your online banking password? Remember ‘sabka number aayega’. And, you are just making it faster.
  5. When was the last time you checked your monthly credit card/bank statement? If you are  too busy with social media, just check the ‘debits’ in the monthly bank statements to save time and ignore the ‘credits’.
  6. And, check the debits in the bank statements carefully. Are you aware of all the charges the bank is supposed to levy? Just a simple mathematics here for perspective. Hypothetically, if a bank has 10 lakh customers and the bank unauthorisedly debits Rs. 100 from each of them. Rs. 10 crore is the income for the bank. Can you guess how many of us would be checking the charges levied, leave alone contesting the charges levied by the bank?
  7. Smartphones are very smart. Beware while using smartphones for online financial transactions, especially, if you are ‘app happy’ meaning you have too many apps and games installed on your mobile.
  8. From personal experience (mera number ek baar aa chuka hai – my turn has already come once), save your bank’s helpline number in your mobile phone’s contact list, maybe on speed dial, so as to block your card or online banking account immediately in case of a fraud.
  9. Keep your online banking transaction limit at the bare minimum. If you do a high value transaction, do not forget to reset the limits immediately.
  10. The Reserve Bank of India has introduced an Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019 (the Scheme). It is an expeditious and cost-free apex level mechanism for resolution of complaints regarding digital transactions undertaken by customers of the System Participants (banks, payments banks, e-wallet operators, etc.) as defined in the Scheme. The Scheme is effective from January 31, 2019. The details are available on RBI’s website ( https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/FAQView.aspx?Id=127 )
  11. Visit the weblinks given below for more information and tips on online safety: https://cybercrime.gov.in/Webform/Crime_OnlineSafetyTips.aspx
    https://cybercrime.gov.in/Webform/CyberAware.aspx

As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’. Prevention is also cheaper than cure. Be aware and be safe online!