Two major events shook up the financial industry in the last couple of months. The first was a data security breach in which millions of debit card pins belonging to Indians were hacked and misused. The second event was the demonetisation that has brought paperless and cashless transacting to the forefront. Advancements in technology provide us secure ways of transacting in a digitised economy. However, we must exercise caution at our end and keep our money safe from scams and frauds. No matter how safe our banking systems and digital security, it ultimately falls on us to be vigilant and take the necessary steps to make sure our financial data is secure. Here are some thoughts to consider. > Your birth year, date of birth, anniversary date, birth date of children, etc. are commonly used PINs and can be guessed easily. How about going for something unique that only you can guess? For example, how about using the four digits from the price of a can of your favourite beer – Rs 85.00? > Operating systems, browsers and anti-virus software need to be upgraded constantly. Older operating systems are not just at data security risk but also will not be able to enjoy software upgrades. It’s best to use the most current software and operating systems available to you to be protected from the largest number of data security risks. > Complex passwords need to be the norm, always. A complex password would typically not be a word out of a dictionary, be a long mix of alphabets, numbers and alphanumeric characters, and symbols, and have mixed casing. Deliberately misspelling words (B@nk8az@@r instead of Bankbazaar) also work well. Avoid commonly known and weak passwords like password, qwerty, 123456, abc123, etc. > Beware of scammers trying so get you to give up your netbanking login or card details. They will try to reach you by email, phone or SMS. If you’ve ever transacted online, you would notice that a secure payment gateway would always have an “https” URL. If you feel the URL of the website you’re transacting on looks weird, do not proceed with the transaction. A well-known scam is to invite users to share their login details on realistic-looking phishing websites. Their URL, for example, would be rbionline.co.in instead of rbi.org.in. Surf the net with the most up-to-date browser and pay attention to any security alerts it providers. > Downloading from illegal websites would expose you to security risks. On such websites, there is an immense amount of misinformation. Links to potentially harmful software are garbed as legitimate links. Once downloaded and installed on your system, such software can be used to spy on you and steal your data.> If you somehow get deceived into installing ransomware, your system could get remotely hijacked and would be freed only by paying a ransom through unsecured channels, which further jeopardizes your data. To avoid such risks, you should download items only from legitimate sources.> Never share your password, pin, CVV, card expiry date, and OTP with anyone unless you’re being asked to do so through secure channels. This data is for your eyes and ears only. If anyone is asking you to disclose this data, you can be sure you’re being scammed. > Careful how you dispose your financial paperwork. Bank statements, credit card bills, mutual fund statements and insurance documents contain sensitive details such as your PAN number, date of birth, address, phone number etc. > These are pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of your identity. Some of this information is publicly available. Other information is sensitive. If this data is disposed of carelessly, it may fall in the wrong hands. Once that happens, someone looking to harm you may put all the pieces of information together and have your complete profile. From there, your identity may be stolen and your financial data security may also be compromised. > Do not swipe your credit and debit card at any place other than secure ATMs and point-of-sale machines at shopping outlets. You are at risk if you are using the old cards with magnetic strips. Switch to cards with chips. Cards with magnetic strips can be easily duplicated through unauthorised swipes. Check for ATM skimmers – realistic-looking illegal installations on legal ATMs used to steal the data from your magnetic strips. > The age of e-wallets and mobile transactions is upon us. If you transact through your phone, make sure there are passwords and two-factor authentications in place for all financial apps through which you spend money. If your phone finds its way into the wrong hands, you need these multi-layered securities in place to prevent fraudulent transactions.