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Phishing for compliments
Sidin Sunny Vadukut

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November 21, 2007

Did you notice the slideshow that had up yesterday on secure banking? About how to never to keep your online banking login and password in a public place? And how to make sure your account is never hacked into or otherwise misused? (Not applicable to humour columnists who often log into their bank accounts in order to find material for their columns. Hackers break into our accounts and often leave money.)

Well the only problem with that is that the nice people at Rediff assumed that you already have a bank account.

Which, if you go by the experiences I have had, need not necessarily have to be true. In fact it can be a pretty painful memory.

Remember the good old days when you HAD to open an account only in one of those PSU banks? Where customer service was simple and straightforward and involved policy statements such as 'Asking of too many questions will lead to things being thrown at you.' and 'Shut up. We have your money.'

But jokes apart, banking was slow and unproductive back then. But simple. You walked into a branch at opening time. By lunch time the first step was complete: the security guard came and raised the shutter. Then you had a brief chat with the branch manager, filled in a few forms and, voila, your account was open.

And then things changed completely.

Ever since banks went private and all the new fangled technology came into force managing your money has become a lot more complicated. Opening an account now requires at least a Masters in banking.

Customer: "I would like to open an account!"
Bank guy: "Which one sir? Savings, Current, Business, Online, NRI, SME, Corporate, Salary --?"
Customer: "Err, umm, savings I guess."
Bank guy: "Which type of account do you want sir? Savings Plus? Saving Optimum? Savings Superb? Savings Awesome? Savings Goddamn Spectacular? Savings Of Almost Orgasmic Intensity?"
Customer: "Just a regular Savings account will do thank you!"
Bank guy: "But the Plus account comes with ATM card and Phone banking."
Customer: "Ok fine. I don't care. Just give it to me."
Bank guy: "But the Savings Awesome account comes with a free credit card."
Customer: "Fine! I'll take it."
Bank guy: "And miss out on the Savings Goddamn Spectacular that comes with assured 35 kg weight loss and spectacular sex life?"
Customer: "Of course not. I want that only."
Bank guy: "Sorry, our computers are down."

And when the computers finally work, you need to fill in a form that runs into so many pages that it has chapters and footnotes and homework questions (Example: Were you able to fit your permanent address in that space? Ha! We thought so!). Also you need to sign in 32 places and attach 14 photos. Along with several proofs of residence and birth. (The upside is that after you get your account you can hand over all the documents to the US Consulate, where you'll probably get an H-1B on the spot.)

Just one week after you fill in all your forms and submit all your documents you will receive a phone call from the bank in order to verify your details.

Phone person: "Is this Shivakumar Nair?"
You: "No."
Phone person: "Sorry wrong answer. Sidin Sunny Vadukut, your application has been rejected. Bye."

So you go back to the bank, and thanks to the revolutionary impact of IT in banking, sit in the waiting area for so long that you actually witness fresh recruits moving up to accountant and finally become branch manager as you wait, and fill in all those forms again. By this time you have taken so many passport size photos that you are beginning to hate your face and are running out of money to deposit in the account. (Note the irony.)

After another two weeks of waiting you receive a small envelope from the bank that contains your ATM Card pin number. There are two problems here: you haven't received your ATM Card or even account details yet, and two, you don't know how to open the envelope because it is glued in four places and stapled in three. You rip it down the middle by mistake.

When you go to the bank they ask you to call the phone banking number because all customer complaints are handled there. "The people in our call centre will immediately take care of your entire problems sir. So, you just need to call them sir. "

"Welcome to the Phone Banking service. Our operators are all busy attending other calls on their personal mobile phones talking to family, love interests and such like. Call back in a day or two and we will give you an update. But honestly things are not looking good. But hey! The world runs on hope! In the meantime you can listen to this great Kenny G number from the album 'Whine'."

Digression: My wife once lost her online password and went to the branch. Who told her to call the call centre. Who asked her to go online. Where a web message told her to report to the branch. Where she threw a photocopy machine at someone. Who gave her a new password.

After another week of following up you finally get your hands on that nice thick packet. It contains your shiny debit card, cheque book and online internet account access login and password.

Yay! Now you can walk into any ATM and withdraw as much money as you want.  All you need to do is pull out that ATM Pin Number you got all those days ago.

Oh heck. Where is that piece of paper? Goddammit!

But after that you really need to keep an eye out for those phishing attacks. You must see that Rediff slideshow. People will do anything to fraud you out of your money. They will spare nothing to hack into your account and withdraw all your hard-earned cash. (Yet another good reason to give it all to the nearest humour writer you know for safe keeping.)

Therefore, in order to keep your account safe and your funds intact, you need to send me your full account details including login and password to my email address so that I can secure your account using advanced security protocols and computerised encryption.

The wonders of banking technology, I tell you.

Earlier columns:

More adventures of the Vadakuts, mister and missus, can be found at Domain Maximus.

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