News came out this week about the arrest of a bank manager who had managed to dupe a senior citizen couple to the tune of Rs 1.4 crore, by pretending to help them with their investments.
This incident, while shocking, is not isolated. There have been a number of similar incidents in the recent past, where regular citizens have lost their hard-earned money to thieves or fallen prey to unscrupulous bank managers. It is also telling that the vast majority of those who lost their money were vulnerable citizens, like senior citizens.
Separate lines of control
Frauds happen when there is an imbalance in power and knowledge. While it is not possible for everyone to have a trusted relative as a bank employee or a thorough knowledge of banking laws, it is possible to prevent fraud simply by retaining control.
For example, a number of banks also have services where they can invest on your behalf. While this may be convenient, this additional control and authorisation that you give your bank manager can be a starting point for misuse. You can, instead, find an independent broker, or open a smaller bank account in another bank whose investment services you choose to employ. Every time you want to make an investment, you will simply have to transfer only that exact amount.
This separation means you will have to jump an extra step for your transactions, but it will be a step that will ensure your money is in your control.
Don’t unsubscribe from alerts
Yes, daily emails and SMSes might feel like spam after a while, but I cannot stress the importance of staying subscribed to mobile and email alerts, enough. Transaction alerts are usually real time, so if you notice something fishy, you can call your bank up immediately.
When it comes to money being transferred out of your account without authorisation, the speed of your complaint is of utmost importance and most fraudulent transactions that are reported within 24 hours have a better chance of being retrieved. If you have elderly parents, make sure you check their statements regularly as well.
Don’t give details over the phone
The vast majority of frauds in India and across the world happen over the phone. Usually someone pretending to be a bank official calls saying they’re performing a routine customer ‘check’ or ‘verification’ and offers a few details about you in order to come across as authentic. It is here that we must remember that we are in the age of the internet and more specifically, a leaky AADHAR database, where it isn’t very difficult to dig up personal details. So, do not answer them. Instead, ask them exactly what they’re calling about and tell them you’ll visit the branch and do it in person instead.
If the person on the other end cries about the matter being of great urgency or gets flustered and vague, rest assured that it is a fraud call. If it is genuine, you will have no problem finishing it in the branch.
Be firm In your convictions
Finally, it is important to stress that a large part of making a fraud work is through subtle intimidation. Most fraudsters tend to use language like “I have been in this business for many years” or “Are you saying I don’t know what I’m talking about?” or even “I know what is best for you” in order to get their clients to comply. Women are often taught that’s politeness is an integral part of femininity, which is frankly, nothing short of silly. If you’re being sold something that you don’t want or being strong armed into a scheme you don’t agree with, be firm in your convictions and give them your reasons for not wanting to enroll. Most importantly, don’t back down! What you choose to do with your money is a decision that is yours and yours alone.