The PIN predicament - The New Indian Express

The PIN predicament

Published: 07th December 2013 08:30 AM

Last Updated: 07th December 2013 08:30 AM

ATM card users groaned collectively when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced the mandate of all card transactions being protected by the card’s personal identification number (PIN) from the beginning of this month. This means that when you swipe your debit card at any shop or restaurant, you’ll be required to key in your PIN as well to authenticate the transaction. While the measure is a safety net to avoid fraudulent activities, it has however left quite a few uneasy about the practice.

Says Ravi Mashru, an engineering student, “Since the rule came into effect, I have been forced to tell the merchant my PIN as the swipe machine is usually on the other side of the counter and cannot be moved. So, now I have to keep changing it as you never know who’s watching a little too keenly.”

With most merchants using the old machine which isn’t portable, punching in your PIN is an open activity that can be very easily watched. Earlier, only Maestro cards required a PIN authentication while other Visa and MasterCards never required it, giving card holders better privacy of their PIN.

Adds Ravi, “I think it was better when you had to inform the bank immediately to block the card if it was stolen or lost rather than being paranoid about someone seeing your PIN. I have been discouraged to use the card ever since.”

Understanding the inconvenience and the possibility of theft, the mandate also gives customers the right ask for privacy while punching in the code, however, the probability of that is quite low. “It is very problematic. Firstly, you have to walk till the cash counter every time as almost nobody in the city has upgraded to portable machine. Secondly, you have to make sure there is no one watching you which is nearly impossible. With all this risk involved, I have started paying by cash now,” says Mithun Rajput, an IT engineer who recently faced this inconvenience when paying the bill at Paradise restaurant.

Besides the inconvenience of using your PIN in a public area, many others are still unaware of the new rule, giving them a rude shock when merchants ask for their code.

Though the change is required to be intimated by the bank to their customers, only some have received an SMS. Says Thinkal Hansan, who was taken aback when she was asked for her PIN at a Domino’s Pizza outlet, “I was baffled by the situation, and instead chose to pay by cash. Now I am forced to carry cash all the time as I am uncomfortable punching my PIN with people around. You cannot keep a check on who is watching you.”

Customers with accounts with certain national banks are just some of the people still in the dark. However, it isn’t just them who aren’t aware, some retailers too are ignorant of the new rule, causing a confusion at the time of payment.

While trying to process the transaction, they have ended up returning the card to the customers saying it has been declined. This happened to Keneisenuo Rio who tried paying by card at the Minerva Coffee Shop located at Somajiguda and was left perplexed at her card being ‘declined’.

Given that the rule is a change from the usual, the transition will be wrought with certain difficulties, however the extra authentification step has been added to increase the security of transactions done via a debit card at a retail outlet. And that has given Abhishek Pandey definite relief. Explains the chemical engineer at Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, “This PIN facilitated transaction is safer and better. Now if I lose my card or if it gets stolen, I will be less worried knowing that transactions will not be made from my account without the PIN. But I definitely do agree that customers should be given privacy when they key in their code.”

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