The banks are going to be inundated with this work for some days, but I still have no idea whether it was my PAN card number which was misused.

Note exchange shocker Someone has used your PAN number the bank told mePTI
Blog Demonetisation Saturday, November 12, 2016 - 18:24

Like most working professionals, I decided I’d wait for the weekend to exchange my old Rs 500 notes. I didn’t want to spend an hour waiting in queue during my lunch break at work, and I’d hoped the initial panic following the demonetisation announcement, would perhaps subside when the weekend came. 

After a lazy Saturday morning, I walked with my flatmate to the closest bank from my residence in Bengaluru. We got to Axis Bank at around 3pm, I went armed with my Pan card, a photocopy of the same, but had sadly forgotten my pen behind (Yes, I know, what reporter forgets her pen!). But thankfully, the staff at the bank were welcoming. 

The gentleman by the ATM, which incidentally had run out of cash twice today, asked me for my ID proof. I handed over my PAN card. He then gave me a form to fill. Having forgotten my pen, he took down my details. He then asked me to write the series number of the notes I had to exchange. 

Handing me his pen, he went about guiding others, who had walked into the same bank. My flatmate read out the numbers as I jotted them onto the same form. I then went and stood in the queue. 

There were two lines – one for those who wanted to exchange their old currency and the other for those who wanted to withdraw/ deposit cash from their Axis bank accounts. As I stood in the queue, bank officials walked up and down reminding people to fill in the series numbers of the old notes, checking ID proof, making sure people had their photocopies of their ID attached to the form. One woman came down the queue and stapled our forms. Another bank official read aloud names of people, who had handed over their ID cards to him (for a photocopy of the ID card, I presume), and handed the same back to them. 

It took about 45 minutes or so for me to make my way into the bank manager’s cabin. Once I was in, the bank manager looked at my form. I had Rs 3,500 to exchange. “Will you take a 2000 note and the rest in 50s?” she asked. I replied, “No, can I please have it in 100s?” She said they had run out of 100s and only had 50s. So, I accepted. 

The bank official, then, asked me for my mobile number. Once, I had given it to her, she looked over at her computer screen and informed me that I had withdrawn Rs 4,000 yesterday and was not eligible to take more cash. I looked stunned. “I haven’t exchanged any money,” She then replied that someone had used my PAN number to withdraw money. I was horrified. But before I could process the security breach that may have possibly occurred without me knowing, she asked me to give her another mobile number. “You can give me any number,” she said exasperated. The only mobile number I remembered is my mother’s, so I give it to her.  

While my 50s are being processed, I ask her again, “So, what is it? Did someone use my PAN number? Because it’s a breach of my security…” Before I could finish, she tells me, “No, mobile number,” as she hands over the cash. As much as I wanted answers, I didn’t want to hold up the long line of people behind me, so I walked out, still in shock. 

I called my mother to inform her that I had handed over her number to the bank, in case she faced a similar problem at her end. But as I type this out, I am still at a loss and have only questions. Axis bank isn’t my bank, so how would the official even know about a ‘withdrawal’? Did the bank official get my PAN number wrong or did someone really misuse my ID without my knowledge and whom? What did my mobile number have to do with anything? Surely, giving another mobile number to make a transaction, isn’t a fool proof method to get a legitimate exchange?

I called my colleague, who had exchanged his currency two days ago at SBI Bank, and asked if the bank had asked for his mobile number. He replied, “No.” 

But it appears, I am not the first person to have encountered such a problem. Another Bengaluru resident was also shocked to find out that her Aadhar card had been used by someone else to swap cash. In her case, she was informed that the government was answerable for the “anomaly” and not the bank.  

The banks are going to be inundated with this work for some days, but I still have no idea whether it was my PAN card number which was misused, or my mobile phone number. There was no chance to ask the bank staff about this to ensure that my identification information is secure, or whether it was erroneously written. When the initial rush of work has tided over, and access to cash normalises, I hope there will be an opportunity for me to check about this anomaly. 

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