Becoming more digitally-tolerant
Why would one reduce visits to her bank branch? She may find that she has opened one account too many, or shifted far away from the bank’s location. Some reasons could have been caused by the bank: the account holder has encountered errors or is unhappy with the service. Then, there are those who have decided to stop visiting a bank branch because they want to transact only online. The offline, brick-and-mortar version is being discouraged.
The new digital world is upon us; but we do read that there could be frauds resulting from a security breach. The magnitude of the loss combined with the fear of the unknown makes us shun such advancements. India seems to have leapfrogged the Internet boom by advancing rapidly with mobile technology and we cannot ignore how smartphones are changing the way we transact. With the number of smartphone users being pegged at 204 million by the end of 2016 and growing rapidly, transacting online is the way forward for most people.
If only we understood the precautions that we need to take, we would be more digitally-tolerant. Here are some ways to take you there.
Gone are the days when you had to visit the bank branch to withdraw cash, or even deposit a cheque. Some banks even charge you for a visit, so you have to go to an ATM. In such a situation, make sure that the debit card you carry is of an account where you do not keep large cash balances. Withdrawals can be made on, say, the 1st, 10th and 20th of the month, so that you stagger the amount of cash you walk around with. Before using drop boxes to deposit cheques, keep a copy and also note the drop box centre number for future follow-up. Use your mobile phone to take pictures of both, and delete them once you have confirmation of the credit.
Online banking is a way of life. Maintaining multiple passwords and trying to remember them is complex. The way out seems to be in entering an easy to remember number like a date of birth. But then what about websites that need alphanumeric or special characters, and then want you to change the password every few months? You can try out websites that allow you to create encrypted passwords.
Once you are comfortable banking online, you may be able to use apps or programmes that allow you to track your expenses, bifurcate them into categories and build a better budget. You can then create a separate account for expenses that are linked to your debit card.
Investing, too, has become simpler. Ten years ago, we would write 12 cheques for a systematic investment plan to be continued for 12 months. Now we just have to sign one cheque. Soon, we might even be able to manage this without putting pen to paper. For those wanting to help save the environment (which should mean all of us), saving paper is another reason to consider the digital alternative. You, of course, will know that investments are securely linked to your own bank account and you can take comfort from the fact that any redemption cannot be made to a third party.
Technology is here to stay. So, let us embrace it but keep our eyes open to the precautions that need to be taken. After all, there are many risks in the digital world as well.
You can follow these precautionary steps to make your digital financial life more secure. Have a two-step authentication enabled for transactions. Be extra cautious while registering someone for online fund transfer; always insist on a cheque or statement copy to verify details. Be on the safer side by transferring a smaller amount on the first transaction before making larger transfers. When it comes to passwords of financial institutions you are transacting with, never have common passwords. As much as possible, don’t write down your credit or debit card PIN anywhere. When shopping online, disable the feature that asks you to store your credit card number. Lastly, use only those shopping sites that are secured.
The digital world is here to stay. It may be convenience today, but it may be the only way tomorrow. The time for you to accept this is today; but do so with your eyes open.
Lovaii Navlakhi is founder and chief executive officer, International Money Matters.