Omidyar - Close Icon

Going cashless? Take it slow

30th March 2020
arrow down

Photo credit: Mint

Paramjit Sen just couldn’t make sense of how a scamster had conned him out of ₹50,000. Three days earlier, he had listed his vehicle for sale on a website for used cars. Someone called him, made an offer, and said he’d make an advance payment.

Sen is tech savvy. He had verified the caller’s phone number and identity on the Truecaller app. So when the caller asked him to accept the payment on his UPI (Unified Payment Interface) app and sent him a link, Sen agreed, and entered his PIN number. Suddenly, he saw his account being emptied of funds.

He realized the scamsters had sent him a link to authorize a debit, not make an advance. He spent the next few hours calling his bank. Since he had authorized the transaction on his own phone, there was little action the authorities could take, other than blocking further transactions.

Incidents of online fraud are not unique to UPI apps. Complaints related to identity theft, email scams, phishing and financial frauds have been increasing. Cyber crime incidents have more than doubled to 27,248 cases across India in 2018 as compared to 2016, according to a statement in the Lok Sabha in February 2020.

While some rise can be attributed to better reporting of crimes, it is clear this increasing trend calls for urgent action. There is need to understand the root causes for these incidents and create institutional responses.

It is also important for consumers to be aware of different kinds of fraud, and protect themselves. At a time when people are trying to go contactless and are switching to payment apps to avoid handling cash due to the coronavirus pandemic, they should be careful, and not scared, of using such apps and digital payment systems. Consumers can look for products that limit the chance of fraud.

Read the full op-ed here.