Credit card fraud can be averted, provided you are alert with the amount you last shopped for.
In the last week of December, Santiniketan holds a large mela. Instituted by Rabindranath Tagore to encourage folk art and culture, it has now become a platform for kitschy handicraft, less music and more loudspeakers. However, it still draws a large number of Bengalis from within and outside India, probably in search of nostalgia.
Meandering among the shops in the mela one day, I got a call from my craft shop. One of the salesgirls was calling to check on a credit card transaction.
The private sector bank with public sector parentage that I bank with has a Rs 7,500-limit for any transaction on a card issued by a non-Indian bank.
Beyond the limit, we are supposed to keep a copy of the cardholder's passport, front side of his card and a signed copy of the invoice.
While all this is the stipulation, the bank normally accepts just a copy of the passport as proof of identification.
The salesgirl was calling to say that a customer wanted to pay an amount of Rs 17,000 through a foreign card. Since the limit was only Rs 7,500, would it be all right if the bill was paid by three cards - his card, his wife's and daughter's? I said yes and continued my meandering.
When I checked my balance the next day, it was obvious that all the transactions, except the one for Rs 17,000, had been credited.
I called the bank and was told that although three different people paid using different cards, they were all linked to one, the gentleman's card. So in order to get the money,I would have to get an identity proof of the cardholder.
Thankfully, we had taken his number (something we do for all card transactions). I dialled the international number and left him a message.
He responded immediately and apologised for the inconvenience. By the next day, he had mailed me a copy of his passport for identification.
We duly handed it over to the bank along with copies of the transaction slips signed by the three family members. After that the bank called me and my shop separately to check whether three different people had signed the slips.
I clarified that it was indeed so. It was clear that the slips had three different names and three different signatures.
By now my nerves were fraying a bit and I had already written off the money in my mind.
The bank official said the signatures weren't clear in the scanned copies of the slips that the Bolpur branch had sent to Kolkata and asked me to resubmit the transaction slips.
When I went back to the bank with the slips, the bank official at the Bolpur branch showed me an email query, this time from the fraud detection department.
"How did three transactions with the same card number have three different signatures?"
The lady boss of this bank, who never fails to emphasise, may not have had much impact on that score but at least she can be rest assured that her fraud detection department is working well.
While one section of the bank pointed out that the transaction money could not be credited because the card was a linked family card, the other department asked why the same card had three signatures. What's the bottom line?
If the card department, the fraud department and the risk management department are not satisfied with the answers and proof, my money gets locked for six months.
Not wanting to contribute to my banks float in the future, I typed out a fresh notice for the shop.
"Payments for bill amounts above Rs 7,500 cannot be made using foreign credit cards."
Period. No identity, no family history, no income and tax statements. Nothing will make me relent.