Eternal Caution in giving information on phone
By Tensing Rodrigues*
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” said Thomas Jefferson. At least that is what most believe he said. Regardless of who said it that is a truth one cannot disagree with. But eternal vigilance is the price you have to pay to keep away defrauders as well. Here is a story; something that has actually happened to a couple of unsuspecting souls in the last few months.
A caller, pretending to be a representative of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which manages the Aadhaar database called Geeta Soni from Noida on the pretext of linking her Aadhaar with her PAN (Permanent Account Number). The caller first asked her for her Aadhaar number for the purpose of verification. The caller then asked her for the code sent to her phone (OTP) from the UIDAI to complete the verification process. Within hours Geeta found her bank account emptied.
What had happened was this. The call was from a fraudster. He used the OTP to change the telephone number registered with UIDAI against the particular Aadhaar number. He replaced it with another number in his possession. Then he downloaded a UPI (United Payment Interface) supported app which automatically detects Aadhaar numbers linked to the SIM card of the phone in which the banking app is installed. The app automatically searches for bank accounts linked to the Aadhaar number linked to the SIM. The person can then use the mobile to make payments from that bank account.
What is the moral of the story? That the Aadhaar number should never be linked to your bank account? Wrong. The moral of the story is do not divulge any PIN or OTP over the phone – over a voice call or through an SMS. Where did Geeta go wrong? She had not initiated a transaction for linking her Aadhaar to PAN. Why should someone else do that for her? The UIDAI does not, I repeat DOES NOT do the linking on their own initiative. So never ever entertain a call from UIDAI in that regard. You may be penalized for not linking, but someone else even government cannot do it on your behalf. What can happen is UIDAI may henceforth make it mandatory to furnish PAN as a part of the personal data for Aadhaar.
If you need to do the linking do not do it through a phone; I do not know if that is even possible. Do it online. Is it safer online? I do not know. But the logic is that you are using two devices – the PC and the phone. To defraud the rogue has to have access to both the devices which is not easy. What happened in case of Geeta, is that the fraudster did not have her phone but he as good as had it for she let him use it by conveying to him the OTP sent on that phone. That is why not conveying any information received on your mobile to any unknown person should be a strict no. As I have said before, if you are not sure just do not do it. It is better to face the consequences of not doing it. Better still as a safeguard against any such frauds, do the mandatory procedures as soon as you can. In this case Geeta should have linked her Aadhaar to her PAN as soon as it was mandated by the government. By not having done it she left a lurking fear in her mind that she needs to do it. So when the call came she yielded to the trick of the fraudster. If she had done it already, she could have coolly ignored the call. Even today there are a lot of persons who have not done the linking, or have not done the e-KYC for the bank accounts (linking the Aadhaar number to their bank accounts). These persons are exposing themselves to Geeta type frauds. And do not let your like or dislike for Prime Minister Modi or his party or his policies make you compromise your personal security. What needs to be done to minimize your vulnerability has to be done.
Let me repeat what I have said earlier. As far as possible, avoid using copies of Aadhaar card for Aadhaar verification/KYC. Insist on biometric verification. Not that the latter is fool proof, but the chances of mischief are far far less. It is high time government makes biometric verification absolutely mandatory and put an end to the hazard of the Aadhaar card xerox copies floating around. Be cautious. Be cautious always.
*The author is an investment consultant. Readers can send their comments and queries to email@example.com
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