Going cashless can give rise to online scams; we need to stop volunteering data….writes Bikram Vohra

Indian RupeeSweet are the uses of adversity. And for most people in the country the slow start to the week in being reunited with their money has left them vulnerable to scamsters of all types.

Despair does that, makes you reach out and cling to anything even though your mind tells you it is a lot of rot.

The latest one doing the rounds is a letter on an RBI letterhead ostensibly signed by Urjit Patel informing you that a sum of 5,00,000 pounds will be sent to your bank account if you fill in the form. It even has a dotcom address.

It is a pretty neatly done piece of nonsense and in the current mood where there is this mental photoplay in the public’s mind that the Rs 2.5 lakh crores unearthed is supposedly going to fall like confetti into their hands and end poverty, the gullibility factor rises exponentially.

One would imagine it is a deft and swift way to create a database or get into something more insidious like using the details provided to create false accounts, copy credit cards and whatever other fiscal thievery one can engage in.

For the middle class that still falls for such stuff in considerable numbers, the need to believe intensifies when the survival factor kicks in. Gone is the first month’s warmth and togetherness and the neighbourly feelings. “We will overcome”, is being replaced by the sentiment, “we cannot take it any more”.

After the three holidays, the absence of enough notes prompted by the return of the snaking queues and a lower, much lower, patience level has people wondering what’s going on. Add to all this the information that the printing press cannot print enough notes for 195 days and that we have not even reached 25 percent of the target and we begin to wonder if the nation hasn’t been dug into a hole.

As I said earlier, the filthy rich don’t seem to be particularly unhappy. The underworld hasn’t yet been yanked off to face the consequences and the gap between Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 is just too large to make things viable in a 98 percent cash-oriented society.

More scams are likely to depart from social platforms. If it wasn’t for the princely sum and the fact that it is not Indian currency, this scam would have been a lot more convincing. Imagine if you, in your intelligence, had received such a well-crafted letter with all the bells and whistles attached to it, and it said Rs 20,000 was being deposited into your account as a government dividend out of the interest accrued from the unearthed black money, would you not be tempted to provide your details?

The ‘half a million pounds’ is a reflection of the contempt in which these scam artists hold the masses. If one could trace the source of this effort you would find that several thousand people would still have cheerfully handed over their details.

We are not yet trained to keep our details confidential. Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the US invasion of privacy into the man on the street, would have had a very easy time in India obtaining private data. We volunteer it.

The government is duty-bound to inform the nation that no money is being placed in anyone’s account with reference to the black money hunt or the demonetisation initiative. Till then do not send your information to anybody. That is the next big problem we will face. As the supporters of the cashless e-school tom-tom their online world, most of us won’t know the difference between a genuine document and a con.



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