Checklist before going electronic

Arvind Jayaram | Updated on March 23, 2013 Published on March 23, 2013

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Always have your bank’s helpline number close at hand, just in case something goes wrong when you are making an e-payment.

Indian policymakers are keen to push bank depositors to write fewer cheques and make more transactions through the electronic route. The key benefit of e-payment is that transfer of funds is almost instantaneous.

While the campaign is yet to kick off, we think that you should be aware of all the nuances of making e-payments before taking the plunge. We’ve put together a simple checklist for you to look through before you get started.

When alarm bells ring

When registering for net banking facilities, it is mandatory to provide your contact details to your bank. Use this opportunity to enrol yourself for an SMS alert facility. Used in conjunction with an e-payment system, this ‘alarm bell’ will notify you within seconds of a transaction being executed.

This has a twin benefit. Not only do you get the peace of mind of knowing when funds have been debited from your account, or alternatively, when someone’s e-transaction of funds has been credited into your account, it also acts as a safety net in the offhand event that someone else gets hold of your net banking details.

double check

Murphy’s Law teaches us that if anything can go wrong, it will. One of the things that can go wrong in case of a simple e-payment boils down to human error at the time of data entry. This is even more likely if you are not familiar with computers or are carrying out a transaction in a hurry.

Since your e-payment will go through within seconds of clicking on the send button, it makes ample sense to spend a minute or even five to ascertain whether the payment details you have entered are accurate.

Errors could be as mundane as entering a wrong digit when keying in the number of the mobile phone whose bill you are paying, or as serious as entering an extra zero when transferring funds to another account.

Remember in e-payments you bear the risk if the money gets lodged into the wrong account.

No hidden costs

If you are making a purchase from an online store or accepting a payment through a service provider such as Paypal or PaisaPay for sale of an item on eBay, it is essential that you give the terms and conditions of these websites a careful reading. Some websites will levy a fee for use of their e-payment system.

For example, if you make payment for an item purchased from overseas using Paypal, this does not incur any additional charge.

But if an item you have listed is sold overseas, you are liable to pay a service fee of 2.9-3.9 per cent of the transaction value plus 30 US cents. Other sites also have their own terms and conditions regarding e-payments, so take the time to read through carefully so that you are not saddled with additional charges when you carry out the transaction.

Safety first

Before you make a payment online, take the time to ascertain whether the page has appropriate security features to protect your sensitive account information.

Look at the address bar as well: when you move into the payments section of a website, you should be linked to a secure web page (address starting with https://) that encrypts your data, as opposed to the normal (address starts with http://) protocol used for browsing.

In a portal, this could range from Verified by Visa and Mastercard SecureCode protocols to Verisign and Paypal protected payment gateways to ensure that your information does not fall into the wrong hands.

Ensuring security at your end is also of paramount importance. Don’t go about using your local cyber-café to make electronic transfers or big-ticket purchases. You never know who’s monitoring your computer in such public spaces.

Conducting a transaction over a mobile phone using an unsecured wi-fi network can be as dangerous. Always use a machine that is safe from prying eyes and has an uninterrupted and reliable Internet connection when making e-payments. This also minimises the chance of a payment not going through.

When you enter into an auto-deduct agreement with a company or service provider, you are effectively handing over your cheque book to them as well. Giving authorisation to a company to auto-debit your account could be problematic, as you are essentially losing control over the timing of your payments and the sum as well.

While this is less of a problem with established companies, be extremely wary of lesser known entities which might not have the necessary security systems to protect your details. What is more, extricating yourself from such agreements could be a harrowing experience as well.

Help at hand

Always have your bank’s helpline number close at hand, just in case something goes wrong when you are making an e-payment. According to the Electronic Payments Association (NACHA), 38 out of every 1,00,000 e-payments experiences an error of some kind. This can range from mistakes on the bank end to errors made by the consumer. In case you run into such problems, don’t hesitate to call up the bank immediately to have the issue resolved or lodge a complaint.

> arvind.jayaram@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 23, 2013
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