How to Safeguard Your Financial Information in This Fintech World

Jan 13, 2021

Living in an environment that is online 24x7 comes with its fair share of challenges and one of the biggest being online frauds.

In the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown restrictions last year caused a large part of our daily lives to rely heavily on digital/online platforms. Inadvertently, the lockdown phase uplifted India into a digitally empowered society and many of us adopted online mode for payments of utility bills, groceries, etc. using payment wallets, UPI, debit/credit cards to maintain social distance.

Our dependence on digital platforms for entertainment, shopping, banking, investing, social interactions has increased as we continue to 'work from home'. In the future as well, technology will continue to be an enabler and we may see many more apps and online platforms coming up for various purposes.

Now while you may make the best use of technology, enough care needs to be taken with regards to the way we make use of the app and online platforms --particularly while divulging your personal and financial information. You see, the risk of theft or hacking of personal financial information is more than ever before.

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Here's an instance...

Recently, at a Sunday brunch, one of my friends shared an experience his father had. He had received a call asking for his bank details. They said, "Your debit card has been blocked by our bank due to a technical issue and to unblock it you need to share your debit card details with us". His father believed the caller and began sharing his debit card number over the phone.

Fortunately, my friend overheard his father sharing the debit card number over that call and stopped him immediately. He helped his father realise it was a fake call and that banks would never ask such details to their customers.

While technology continues to upgrade many options for the ease to access funds and other features to make customers' lives easier, it also creates new opportunities for black hats to get a hold of financial information, and eventually your hard-earned money.

In August 2020, 'Just Pay', an online payment service provider that processes transactions for online giants Amazon, Swiggy, etc., discovered an unauthorized attempt on their servers and improved their cybersecurity measures.

In September last year, the Twitter account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was allegedly hacked.

Also, nearly 10,000 coronavirus-themed online frauds were witnessed in the country between February and May 2020. The list goes on...

Bear in mind that fraudsters can easily pretend to be your bank or service provider and ask you for details about your credit card through email or call. They can also send virus/malware to your computer/mobile devices to obtain your financial information without your knowledge.

According to Lt. Gen. (Retd) Rajesh Pant, National Cyber Security Coordinator, cyber-attacks in India have "gone up multi-fold" with upto 4 lakh malware being discovered everyday. Unsuspecting receivers may fall prey to such emails or SMS and click on embedded malicious links/URLs.

However, there are various ways that you can safeguard your personal financial information to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Here are some important points to consider:

  1. Stay alert to impersonators

    Many fraudsters are pretending to be someone else to gain access to your financial information. Sometimes, you may receive calls and messages stating that you have won a prize or there is an offer. This will further lead to asking you to validate a link, help with the card number, or share an OTP you might have received on your phone.

    As a preventive measure, you should not entertain any such communication. Never give out your personal financial information through the unverified mail, phone, or over the internet unless you have initiated contact and are confident about who you are dealing or making that transaction with.

    If a fraudulent activity takes place, it is always prudent to contact the associated company or bank you are dealing with directly through their trusted website, verified official e-mail ids, or customer care number/s. Always confirm if they have made the request for your financial transaction and/or inform the respective authorities about the fraudulent transaction.

    Also, please do not share any of your critical information with your friends, relatives, etc. The possibility of potential misuse cannot be ruled out. You may only share your sensitive financial information with a very trusted family member, who may use it in case of any emergency.

  2. Check the URL for browser safety

    To safeguard your online transactions, transact on 'secured' websites. Thoroughly check the URL of any website and it should have a 'lock' icon on your browser's status bar before you enter any personal financial information. The lock indicates that the website is using 'https', a secure and encrypted way to communicate over the internet.


    You can also possibly use encryption software to transfer any information safely through the internet.

    Moreover, there are incidents of 'Pagejacking', where you click on a link and it redirects you to a website that you were not looking for. Sometimes, though the webpage might look similar to the actual one, the URL is different. This is to deceive you into feeding key financial data that will get collected in hacker's database for misuse.

  3. Be prudent with uploading and reveal financial information

    Many a time PAN details, Aadhaar card number, bank statements, and other vital financial information is shared online (via WhatsApp and emails), but keep in mind this is very sensitive data. If not sent to a trustworthy person or uploaded on an official portal/s, this data may be compromised. Thus, before sharing or uploading it, check for the authenticity and credibility of the portal or person to maintain the security of the vital information you reveal.

    You see, nowadays, because everything is easily accessible through smart devices on your fingertips, you must make sensible use of such devices. Never store vital and sensitive information on your laptops, smartphones, or iPads that notorious elements may look up for and misuse. Use a secure deletion program or software to remove sensitive files or documents (if any) before you reset the devices to factory setting or recycling.

  4. Avoid any downloads from unknown sources or sites

    When you download files from unknown sources, it can create many glitches and compromise keeping your data safe on any device. The file you have downloaded in the form of document/song/video may contain malware or spyware that can dig up the stored financial data and transmit it to anyone through the internet.

    Download a file from unknown sources only if it is absolutely necessary. And make sure you have a licensed version of anti-virus software to get the files scanned and detect any virus/malware.

  5. Ensure your passwords and PINs are dynamic

    To protect your financial information online, you must use long and unique passwords and keep changing them frequently as it helps prevent frauds.

    The passwords or PINs you set for various apps from your shopping, social media, banking, investing, etc. should ideally be dissimilar. Besides, have strong passwords and PINs that are difficult for anyone to guess. Avoid setting passwords that are easily relatable to you like date of birth, phone number, etc. You must use the two-factor authentication wherever applicable for better security. Doing this would make it difficult for hackers and fraudsters to trace or hack your financial information.

  6. Be careful while using wireless connections

    You see, internet communication has become one of the most prominent signs of a modern country that is attempting to increase its citizens' comfort and convenience. While airports, cafes, hotels, restaurants, offices, and colleges have public wireless internet connections, keep in mind that they are not secure enough to risk using them while performing an online financial transaction.

    Note that most of these places lower the security parameters of the network so that you can access and use those wireless internet connections easily. A hacker with the correct tools can easily intercept your financial information by sharing the same wireless network with you at these locations.

    It's scary, but true, that if you share the same internet connection, hackers can even tap into your device and observe every action you do on that device via their device on a real-time basis via remote access.

To conclude...

Yes, I agree that technology and many fintech platforms have made it convenient to transact online and save precious time, energy, and costs. But enough care and prudence must be adopted while you support the government's drive for a cashless economy.

In response to the increasing number of cases of online fraud, the government has taken measures to improve cybersecurity. Last year, i.e. in 2020 on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new cybersecurity policy for safe and secure cyberspace in India. A vision document on cybersecurity for Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) has also been issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

To prevent any fraud or misuse of your personal and financially sensitive information, it is vital that you take the responsibility to safeguard your sensitive personal and financial data by following the above-mentioned points and enrich your financial knowledge.

Financial awareness helps you maintain yours and your family's financial health by adopting effective money management skills and ways to safeguard sensitive financial information.

We understand that not everyone in your family may be well-equipped with financial knowledge, but you could guide them by becoming your family's 'Financial Guardian'. Equip yourself to understand the nuances of personal finance, financial planning, and become aware of the aspects of safeguarding the financial information.


Warm Regards,
Mitali Dhoke
Content Writer

 

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