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Paying online? Beware of free Wi-Fi

October 05, 2018 13:00 IST

When you are on public networks, be careful of what you log into.

Beware of free Wi-Fi

Photograph: Kind courtesy Sunny Leone/Instagram

Innovations have reinvented the way we live and transact in numerous ways.

It is now convenient to order food, book tickets, pay bills, review products etc through a mobile phone or laptop with equal ease.

This makes digital transactions omnipresent and available 24/7.

Of course, consumers expect flawless checkout experience with an assurance that their personal and financial information is safe, apart from the convenience that these new vistas afford them.

The internet and evolution of technology has opened new doors for all kind of businesses and in different sectors where people did not hitherto imagine paying with anything but cash.

That has drastically changed now. However, with every new advancement, especially in technology, come new perils and challenges that all the stakeholders involved must face and respond to.

In payments, apart from convenience, security plays a primary role in the amount of trust a person places on the ecosystem.

There are new risks and ever-refined ways of thefts and frauds emerging in the cyberspace where spammers, hackers and fraudsters have easy access to technology.

From a single-room outfit to globally spread syndicates managed in company style, fraudsters invest their time finding vulnerabilities in systems and loopholes in processes to get people to part with information.

Their means of earning fast money and duping people have increased. In India, this is easier as a staggering number of users are new to digital payments and unaware of its potential dangers.

As per Experian’s Digital Consumer Insights 2018 report, 9 out of 10 Indians are consumers of digital services. But 1 in every 4 Indians has been the victim of frauds while transacting online.

And yet, a major chunk have refused to switch their service providers, respectively 57 per cent in telecom companies, 54 per cent in banks and 46 per cent in retailers.

The report also states that 50 per cent Indians are most comfortable sharing data with banks and an almost equal percentage are willing to share personal data to avail of service offerings!

One can’t afford to be naïve. To safeguard oneself from fraud, here are a few dos and don’ts to follow while making a cashless transaction.


1. Watch out for imposters 

Vishing is a common technique where one claims to be a representative of a bank/financial institution (as a customer tends to trust these organizations quickly) and asks for sensitive information like OTP, CVV, internet banking credentials etc.

Information is requested usually on the pretext/threat that your account/card will get blocked if you do not comply, or with tempting offers that make the intended victims shed their guard and common sense.

Some go as far as to meet you in person to get information.

This becomes easier when fraudsters mention your personal data like birthdate, mother's name etc. to authenticate themselves.

One must remember this information is easily accessible in public domains like social media.

2. See beyond what seems obvious

If you are unsure about a website’s or URL’s authenticity, use services like or to get a clearer idea.

Do not click on any hyperlinks sent to you or submit any information in pop-ups/webpages other than verifiable URLs.

Beware of spoof URLs that are deceptively similar to the original bank or service providers' URLs.

3. Guard your personal information carefully 

Banks and other service providers continuously educate customers not to share their OTPs and passwords with anyone.

Many people write their PIN on the debit/credit card itself or on a bill they are paying.

Many share it with family members or keep a diary of account information.

This makes you very vulnerable if it is in the wrong hands.

Ideally passwords should be memorised; but there are also a number of apps that help manage and keep your sensitive information safe.

4. Keep your devices updated and stay informed 

As technology changes constantly, it is your prerogative and responsibility to safeguard your information.

Keep your device's Operating System up to date and Anti-virus protection current.

Question dubious phone calls, pay attention to alerts from banks, refuse to share information without verifying one's authenticity and choose where to reveal information.

Also keep a note of helplines and redressal mechanisms that you can contact if you face a potential threat.


1. Don't part with personal information anywhere and everywhere

It is unwise to publish personal information on social media all the time like your birthday, names of family members, travel details etc.

It is better to sacrifice a bit of attention on social media than lose your life’s savings.

2. Don't pay upfront for future promises 

If someone claims to give you a gift, job or loan for a fee, never ever pay any amount in advance, simply on a lofty promise.

3. Don't share your card or banking details with anyone 

Always keep your personal details confidential and do not share those, especially over the phone or your e-mails.

Transactions need two things -- your internet banking login, card /account details etc. and your OTP, login password etc.

Handing any one of these to a fraudster can lead to compromising the other and land you in trouble.

4. Do not click on links from unknown sources 

If you get a suspicious looking e-mail/SMS with a link, you should double check the source, or even better, avoid clicking on the link altogether.

Do not download pirated movies/songs.

Do not download any file from an unverified or unknown source.

5. Do not connect to free Wi-Fi services 

Free Wi-Fi may be quite appealing and tempting to try on, especially when you are travelling.

But when you are on public networks, be careful of what you log into. You can never really tell who is accessing your data.

Avoid making any financial transactions over free Wi-Fi network.

If you detect any suspicious activity in your account while you are travelling, immediately inform your bank or financial service provider to avoid any further hassle.

The author Niranjankumar Upadhye is general manager, fraud risk management division at Worldline India.

Niranjankumar Upadhye