Fraud Alert: ATM PIN Security; Greed To Earn Higher Returns Leads to a Loss of Crores
Yogesh Sapkale | 20 January 2023
Just like passwords are the first line of defence in securing almost all electronic information, networks, servers, devices, accounts, databases, files, and more, the personal identification number (PIN) plays the same role for your debit or automated teller machine (ATM) and credit cards. A few months ago, I shared tips on creating a robust password that is easy to remember for you but difficult for others, including cybercriminals. However, many card users continue to use the default PIN provided by the card issuer. Most of them do not bother to read the instructions. Worse, they worry that they may forget the PIN after having changed it and often carry around a printout. The good news is that, like robust passwords, anyone can create an easy-to-remember PIN.
Later in this column, I will also discuss how even high literacy does not protect those who are lured by greed and turn careless.
It is important to create your own PIN but if you make it too simple, it is bound to be misused. According to a report from Times of India (ToI), a woman and a senior citizen from Mumbai lost up to Rs1.70 lakh between them after their belongings were stolen during bus commutes and their debit cards were misused to make withdrawals at ATMs. 
MHB Colony police recently arrested two pickpockets who admitted to stealing the bags of the victims and using their debit cards to withdraw money from an ATM. The woman said her stolen handbag had cash, a phone, a debit card and her Aadhaar, with her year of birth.
Senior inspector Sudhir Kudalkar told the newspaper, "Both (victims) had set their birth years as their debit card PINs." One of the two, the 21-year-old woman, found Rs16,500 debited from her account while the senior citizen lost Rs1.50 lakh.
This brings us to the question of how to set a robust PIN for a debit or credit card. Remember, most people have some identification documents in their wallet or their phone which have their date of birth (Aadhaar, driving licence, PAN card, etc). 
Now, a PIN consists of four digits, but people find it challenging to create a combination that is easy for them to remember but difficult for a criminal to guess. So, they do one of two things to make it easy for the criminal. They use the original PIN provided by the card issuer and also keep the original printout handy in their wallets for the fraudster to find. Secondly, they use their year of birth or the date and month of their birth as a combination. 
Fraudsters with access to this information merely have to try permutations and combinations to hit the right one. 
At the very least, you can use the date you are unlikely to forget but one that is not available on your identification documents. Your wedding day, your child's birthday, or the year of the most momentous event of your life, which is unlikely to be in the public domain unless you are the kind who lives on social media and feels compelled to share every detail there. Even this would be a little more challenging, unless the thief is a person very close to you.   
Cost of Greed
Even though Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country, people of the state keep falling prey to fly-by-night operators. In the past five years, Keralites have lost over Rs6,000 crore to the greed of earning higher returns on investments, says a report from IANS.
Praveen Rana, a star in Kerala for the past year when heading 'Safe and Strong', an investment and marketing company at Thrissur, is presently behind bars. Safe and Strong has gone bust, leaving anxious investors who had invested around Rs200 crore with a promised huge return—which was as high as 42%.
According to reports, Mr Rana's modus operandi was to be seen in the presence of the be-all and end-all of the state's politics, film industry and media personnel, and thus took literate Keralites to a high.
Last year, he was in the news for his flamboyant lifestyle, and his sudden rise to stardom had surprised one and all. His fall also became a topic for debate as no one knows where the crores of rupees that he had collected had disappeared.
This is nothing but the greed of investors to earn more and more. Mr Rana was offering a staggering 48% return on investments. I find it very hard to feel any sympathy for the people who have lost money due to their greed and knowingly walked into the trap set by Mr Rana, said media critic Roy Mathew to IANS. Remember, there are hundreds of Ranas operating in every state of India with the exact same modus operandi.
According to Subhas Babu, a former senior police officer from Kerala, one reason why this is happening at frequent intervals is because of the flaws in registering cases and further follow-up actions. "You just look into the number of financial frauds that have taken place in the state. One classic case that took place long back was with regards to investment taken for rearing goats. The person was arrested and the next we hear that the very same person was engaged in recruiting people in Germany and UK by taking money. A proper registration of cases and a correct follow-up to a major extent can bring down the frequency of such frauds happening."
Greed gives only loss for investors as well as common people. 
'Surrogate' Bank Accounts
While probing an online fraud case, the Borivali Government Railway Police (GRP) found details of the bank account-holder and arrested him. During the interrogation, they found that this person, Shobha Mandal, had 16 accounts in different banks in the city. He confessed under interrogation and revealed that he used to provide his accounts to online fraudsters in Jharkhand and took a 10% commission of the amount deposited in those bank accounts, says a report from Mid-Day.
According to the report, Mr Mandal used to work full-time as a cab driver but to earn more money, he used to give his accounts to the fraudsters and said it was his part-time business. Persons like Mr Mandal are called 'money mules' and are offered easy money simply to allow the fruit of fraud to pass through their account to be consolidated by the fraudsters. They fail to realise that when caught, they end up as scapegoats and often face a harrowing time in police interrogation and subsequent action and litigation. Some even do jail time. 
There are many instances of people's bank accounts, especially the less literate Jandhan account holders, being used as money mules. The banking regulator is aware of this, and a deputy governor had warned about it in his speech around 2014-15. But people continue to be duped. 
Only last August, Mumbai police arrested Abrar Ahmed, who was part of the Nigerian gang for whom he would open bank accounts using forged documents to receive the proceeds of crime. He was paid a commission for every withdrawal and deposit made in the accounts he operated. 
A report from ToI says, as the cyber police team gathered information about the recent transactions carried out from the blocked account, they came across a mobile number that was linked to at least 15 accounts in different banks. Police seized 25 debit cards of various banks, 19 passbooks, 12 cheques, fake Aadhaar cards, PAN cards, and voter ID cards from the 32-year-old.
How To Report Cyber fraud?'
Do report cybercrimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c). 
Stay Safe, Alert and Don't Lose Money!