December 2, 2016: A report stating that nearly 32 lakh debit cards from major banks in India were hacked raised a question on the security breach of ATM /Debit cards in Northeas India. Given the fact that demonetization has caused a lot of chaos in the lives of common man, the instances of ATM fraud has been on a constant rise.
Alarmed at the growing menace, the State Bank of India had blocked cards of certain customers as precautionary measures, to prevent the customers from becoming prey to such potential fraud.
“The SBI blocked ATM cards of many customers after getting caution from the card network companies – National Payments Corporation of India, Master Card and VISA to many banks of some risk to some cards due to data breach.
The customers alleged they receive some hoax calls from unidentified sources that introduced them as employees of leading banks like State Bank of India, United Bank of India. They were asked to share their bank account number and PIN to ensure their ATMs from being hacked.
A majority of customers said they receive such messages and calls many a time as they thought these are standard practices which the banks carry out from time to time.
“We get such messages and calls often. We sometimes entertain them as they warned us against hacking of our ATMs. Now, this is enough to convince us to share our account number and PIN number. When we visit the respective bank branches and asked them about such calls, they blame us for attending the calls. Many times, the grievance cell does not entertain calls when the customers called up to lodge complaint. But the concept of hackers is not known to many people, how could they fight against it?” Mona Sinha, an SBI customer said.
Rajlakshmi Bhowmik, a retired school teacher and incumbent judge of Lokayukta received a call from a man who identified him as BSNL employee and said she won a jackpot that would make her a ‘lakhpati.’ So to get the money, she was asked to give her bank details.
“General masses have faith in government-run companies be it telecom or banking sector. I got a call from BSNL stating I won a jackpot of Rs. 1 lakh for completing 10 years’ as subscriber of their company. I gave them my account number first, but when they asked for my PIN, I told him to call the next day. I later called up one known BSNL employee to know to whom to contact for this. I got surprised to hear the BSNL has no such offer for its customer as of now,” she said.
On the issue, a senior officer of SBI – Tapas Debbarma informed they are focusing to spread awareness among the customers about such hoax calls by giving a guideline along with the bank documents.
“Awareness is the only thing through which we could minimize the hacking problem. The customers are provided with guideline stating what to do and what not to along with bank details. Still, we got complaints from many of the customers of getting hoax calls. We tried our best to convince them about to get rid of these calls. Few people obey us but many of them step their feet in their trap,” he said.
Besides the ATM blockage problem, people soaked in the de-monetization problem. The cash-crunch spread like an infectious disease especially in the rural areas where there are less bank branches or less denomination in the ATMs there.
Though majority of government employees had withdrawn fifty percent of their salary according to the directions of Ministry of Finance earlier, the first day of withdrawing salary post-demonetization went off hassle-free in the northeastern states.
To ease the people from standing in the queues in front of banks, ATMs, the United Bank of India has planned to introduce mobile ATM service in the several northeastern states. Point of Service (PoS) machines would be mounted on the mobile ATM vehicles so that people could withdraw cash from their accounts without standing up in the queue.
On the issue, Regional Manager and Deputy General Manager of the UBI – Mahendra Dohare confirmed the cash crunch is now gradually declining as the banks in the northeastern states are now available of new currency notes. However, they are now eyeing to start mobile ATM service to make their customers more comfortable in the region.
Earlier, the UBI set up camps in the government hospitals where patients and staffs could exchange notes.
SBI has started mobile ATM service throughout India’s northeast region including Guwahati especially infront of hospitals, nursing homes, market places and others. Approximately, 48 vans are working across the region, according to SBI.
At certain times, a person’s greed may persuade him to go ahead with sharing the his PIN no, at other times, it is their ignorance, non-awareness on the issue, especially, given the fact that many people in rural Northeast India are yet to understand the concept of debit card, leave alone a ‘cashless economy’. Awareness could be an important tool in this regard.
Image: Kaspersky lab