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Mar 02

As digital payments grow in the US and India, it becomes important to protect your credit card from fraud. While many banks will take care of charges after you report your card lost or stolen, you may be taken for a ride if someone uses your card and the bank deems it to be your responsibility. There are some common sense tips you can use to ensure the security of your credit card. Some of these tips are common to the US and India, however most cards in US are much better protected against fraud even though they have much less security features.

1.  Get a CHIP and PIN card. This is easier said than done in the US. Most banks in US are sending these out in batches but give your bank a call and ask them to send over a chip card. CHIP cards are harder to skim. In India, do the same. Many banks will want to charge you extra for a replacement. Tell them to go and pound sand. I had an encounter with Kotak Mahindra bank who wanted to charge me Rs.100 to get a Chip card. After I invoked their social media team at Twitter, I was able to get the chip cards sent to me for free.

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2.   Scratch that CVV out. Another way to do fraud is to memorize your card number and write down the expiry and the CVV. An easy way to prevent this fraud is to scratch out the CVV from behind your card (after memorizing it ofcourse Smile ).

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3.   Swipe it in front of your eyes. Never let the waiter or the barista disappear with your card. Don’t get conscious or be embarrassed to ask the waiter to swipe the card in front of your eyes. A moment of inconvenience can prevent a large future loss. A lot of waiters would make a copy of your card using a skimmer while they take it to swipe it.

4.  Turn on mobile alerts. Most banks and credit card companies allow mobile alerts. These mobile alerts serve as an early warning system to you incase your card ever gets compromised and banks can immediately shut down fraudulent use of your card.

5. Never share your OTP. This is mostly with the Indian context. OTPs or one time passwords are issued by banks in India to authenticate card not present transactions. Never share those passwords with anyone including someone claiming to be from your bank. Also never share your card number, expiry or any other sensitive information with your bank either. They will never call asking for such information.

OTP


Feb 29

In an unpredictable and unprecedented move, the Indian Govt. has retrospectively revised rules relating to EPF withdrawals which are sure to cause angst and anger among the salaried citizens of the country. The rules make it much harder for employees to use their funds before retirement and even go ahead and prohibit the withdrawal of all the funds before the age of 58.

Change 1 : No full withdrawal at the age of 54 :

“Now, the subscribers will not be able to claim their provident fund at 54, as earlier. They will have to wait till they are 57. The ministry has notified the new rules,” an official said.

Change 2 : Only partial withdrawal now allowed

Earlier employees could withdraw all of their EPF if they so desired. Now the govt. has put in a restriction that employees may only withdraw their portion of EPF and corresponding interest. Employer’s portion of EPF principal and interest cannot be withdrawn before 58. This kind of restriction is unprecedented where you cannot even withdraw the money even if you are willing to pay a penalty.

There are a few other minor changes, but there are the most major changes notified by the ministry and are extremely unfriendly to employees who may have a big expense coming up, those who want to use their savings to start a business or those who might be relocating abroad. The Indian Govt. just doesnt seem to care about its citizens. So much for Ache Din ! Worse is that there is no grace period to withdraw your money, the rule applies retrospectively paralyzing all withdrawals.


Feb 29

I usually stay away from reviews of Indian e-commerce websites since there are so many, but I would like to promote this fledgling startup offering great value on innerwear. I was looking for a particular brand of vests and couldn’t find it anywhere online except on this site. The vests were great value and the website offered free shipping. It was cheaper than what the neighborhood shops would sell it for. The value seems to be much better than Flipkart and Amazon even. Plus you dont have to step out of your house.

After you place the order, you do get a short verification call so keep an eye out for that.

Furthermore, the website seems to have a very generous rewards program, after spending only 269 on my 1st order, I was able to get 30 off on my seconds order, so sending Zotory some link love : https://zotory.com/


Feb 25

After having moved to America, I admired few things as much as the Starbuck’s loyalty program. Basically you earned a star for every visit to a Starbucks store and it took 30 stars to reach gold status. After you reach gold status, you would get a free drink every 12 stars.  It was nothing great especially when you consider that McDonald’s McCafe has a 5 drink punch card system. However it usually worked as Starbucks would often send out mailers with bonus stars etc.

Last week Starbucks announced far reaching changes to the program which reward only high spenders and make it exceedingly hard for tall/short coffee drinkers to get free drinks. As an example, if you spent $4 on an average on coffee, even without any bonus starts it would take you just $48 to get a free drink or a snack. An OK deal, not too good, but more importantly not too bad either. However under the new rewards program you would earn 2 stars for every dollar you spend. So $48 only gets you 96 stars which is short of the free drink. You must spend $62.5 to get the 125 stars needed for a free drink now. Ofcourse if you have a ton of money and didnt need the occasional free coffee anyway, the Starbucks program rewards you. When people sais they want more stars, this is definitely not what they meant. However that’s the stupid PR spin given to the change by Starbucks.

Here is an infographic showing the changes (ownership is with starbucks, please ignore copyright statement on this) :

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Also worth noting is that the program sucks even more for new customers. Earlier on an average it would cost you $120 to become a gold customer, however now you would need to spend $150 to become gold and then spend an additional $62.5 to get a free coffee. A net expenditure of $212.5 .

What can I do to stop this change ?

Starbucks is spending big bucks to advertise this change, however there is already ton of social media backlash. You should voice your concerns online and email Starbucks about the change. Also you can call Starbucks and ask them for a refund of your gift cards since they have significantly devalued the program. This should tell Starbucks that it’s customers don’t appreciate the changes and force them to do a rethink.


Jan 03

Update : Working with MyProtein management, we have been able to resolve the issue.

This is not a Myprotein.com review, this is my horror story with this so called store with an extreme lack of customer service. I had placed on order with these guys on October 3rd 2015 (or so). For 2 months I heard nothing about my order, no shipment was sent. Then suddenly on 6th December (or so), they charge my credit card and tell me my order is processing. What the hell ?

So I write them a polite letter to cancel the order, I don’t like receiving items 2 months late. They say its shipped and sure enough I need to reship it back and they tell me that they would pay return shipping upto a certain value. Not wanting to pay out of pocket, I refuse the delivery with Fedex and send the package back. The package is processed by Fedex and sent back to them.

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Its received by someone named Aschultz on 18th December 2015.

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Since then they have been playing email tag with me. First they told me that the refund would be processed once they got their package back. It was strange that I had refused delivery but still they wanted me to wait, but I went ahead. After receiving the package back on 18th, they are just pretending to have not received it. Waiting for confirmation from their warehouse they say. Sending emails or trying to reason with them is like banging your head against a brick wall. The customer care just keeps responding with the same shit.

Please be advised that this refused delivery will now be returned to sender, once it has successfully been processed back we can issue you your refund.

I am sorry to advised that we are unable to process a refund or a replacement as the order is showing as not being returned, the details have now been passed to our warehouse to get this checked and someone will be in touch shortly.

Once we do get this order processed back at our Warehouse a full refund will be issued for you.

I am sorry for any frustration you are feeling, however we have not yet received confirmation from our warehouse that this order has been returned to us, therefore we would be unable to process a refund for you just yet.

Even after the order was received, they lied that its in transit to them :

Plesae (sic) be advised that this order is still showing as in transit to back to us. As soon as this has been back processed we will initiate your refund.

So I am writing this post with 2 objectives, one is to force them to do the right thing and refund my money and the second is to warn people about doing new business with them. Like I said, I havent met a more customer unfriendly business in the United States ever.

I have tried everything from writing a review on their linked website Trustpilot to tryng to escalate to tryng to reason. This company is shameless and possibly the most customer unfriendly company I have ever encountered in the US.


Dec 29

Lets start from the beginning of the timeline. Its October first week, I am in the US. Out of OCD and habit I check my Indian credit card by Standard Chartered. I see that there is a charge of almost 30000 rupees which I don’t recognize. I immediately call their call center and after going through a tedious IVRS system I finally get to talk to a real person. My call disconnects twice before I can complete the dispute. I send in a dispute declaration form to the bank for further processing the dispute. If I were in the US, this would be the end of it, the merchant would be penalized. That was not to be. Since we were in the beautiful land of India, everyone was just hoping to take customers for a ride. Standard Chartered and as I found Bank of Baroda later which was the payment processor for the merchant were pushing for the same.

After submitting the dispute form, I received a temporary credit and the online customer service advised me to pay the disputed money otherwise they would charge finance charges. I was shocked and flabbergasted at this. This is directly in contravention of any rule or guideline concerning the dispute process. I wrote off a letter to the RBI ombudsman after this highlighting that not only is Standard Chartered not assisting me properly, they are trying to arm twist me into payment. I also highlighted other procedural lapses by the bank. Here is a relevant portion of my letter to the RBI copied to standard chartered bank :

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I sent the letters and promptly got busy in worklife. Pretty soon the dispute was closed in the merchant’s favor. I got to know this in standard chartered bank’s response to the RBI. It was full of half truths, but the most fascinating thing was the proof the merchant had submitted.

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They claimed that a chargeslip was the proof of the transaction as submitted by the merchant. Its ridiculous that Indian banks think their customers are so dumb and illiterate. And this too in response to the RBI ombudsman. A chargeslip is generated in every transaction, it cannot be proof that someone committed the transaction. It’s common sense one would argue, however Standard Chartered bank had the audacity to attach the chargeslip as proof to the RBI. Thankfully, I still had my card and the signature on the chargeslip was just swiggly lines. They also claim this is industry standard, wow and yikes at the same time. If our CC industry believes that a chargeslip is proof enough for a transaction then I can safely say no fraud has even been committed using credit cards offline in India. Is this really the industry standard ?

Here is the fraudulent chageslip in all its glory, notice that the name looks like Waseem, maybe its fake or maybe the thief signed his real name :

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What was interesting in Standard Chartered’s response to the RBI was that they agreed to reopen the dispute after initially deciding against me only due to the fact that I was abroad. I cringe at what would happen if I was in India, then the chargeslip with fake signature would have ensured that Standard Chartered would hold me responsible for the charge ? They also cleverly asked the RBI to close the complaint. At this point, I asked dad to prepare filing a case in consumer court, there was no way I was going to pay the fraudulent charges.

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So post this drama, I shot off a response to RBI and Standard Chartered bank again questioning the shoddy proof and also asking the RBI to not close the complaint since the essence of the complaint was infact the charge itself and not whether they were allowing me to dispute it. Here is a copy of some of my points in the letter :

However to get to the pertinent points regarding the dispute:

1. I was not present in the country when the said transaction happened, and I have the card in my possession.

2. The signature shared by the merchant bank doesn’t even look like my name and just seems like scribbling. This is the signature on the back of my card for reference. As you can see as a security measure I had even scratched off the 3 digit CVV and always used the card carefully.

The merchant has obviously done a poor job of matching the signature for such a high value transaction or checking the identity.

3. I have also filed a case with the Navi Mumbai Police’s cyber cell

<complaint numbers here>

4. Given the facts of the case, I am able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the transaction is fraudulent and not committed by me and I have the card in my possession so there is no negligence on my part. I reported the fraud transaction as soon as I got to know about it.

Question to Bank:

I fail to understand how the charge slip is any kind of ‘proof’ that I had committed the transaction. It’s not evidence, it’s a fact that anytime a transaction happens, a chargeslip is generated. How is that even pertinent to the case at hand?

What is evidence is that the signature is a complete mismatch and scribble and since I did not sign that chargeslip, I am not the one who entered into the contract to pay for that charge.

Since the bank claims the dispute is currently in investigation, I accept their submission to wait for an outcome.

I would request RBI to keep the complaint open till a decision is reached by the bank in the matter. The crux of my complaint is that the transaction is obviously not done by me and I should not be responsible for the fraud and that matter is not yet resolved by the bank.

Thanks

Wisetechie

Copy to :

Nodal Officer, Standard Chartered Bank

After waiting for another month and a half, today I finally seem to have gotten confirmation that the disputed charge is finally reversed from my account. I hope this is the end of it. There is an important lesson in all of this especially if you use credit products in India. the protections to consumers seem to be very flimsy. If you use a credit product in India, insist on a chip card and if you use your card at restaurants, insist to go along with the waiter to swipe the card. Scratch off the CVV from the back of the card and most importantly flex your rights. My blood still boils thinking of how the chargeslip was meant to be proof of me committing the transaction. In my opinion it was only because I was in the US that the dispute was decided in my favor  (it still took 2.5 months).