10 ways to get genuine advice, use genuine apps

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Covid has forced people across generations to start using online modes of transactions, but with the growing use of online cards, apps and payments, the number of online banking frauds is increasing. Even though many people are enjoying the benefits of digital transactions, fraud remains a pressing concern, especially for new users, including seniors.

At the same time, given the great interest from investors, especially new investors, a lot of unsolicited advice is being spread on social media and messaging platforms such as YouTube and WhatsApp.

Growing reliance on technology as well as socio-cultural factors also contribute. Working from insecure locations such as homes, where firewalls and digital security features are not robust, is another reason for the rise in fraud cases. Also, advice from bad sources makes things murkier.

On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) announced the launch of Saa₹thi, a mobile application which aims to educate investors and give them knowledge about the securities market. The purpose of the application is to educate investors about the securities market, especially considering that many new investors have entered the market and they are mobile-friendly.

The market regulator recently sanctioned six people for illegally providing stock market advice on social media platforms such as Telegram and Twitter. Sebi imposed a fine of Rs 2.84 crore on the six people involved in the scam. No person, firm or other entity is authorized to provide market-related advice, for example on stocks or mutual funds, unless registered with Sebi.

How to avoid falling prey to financial fraud?

Here are 10 simple steps to protect yourself from most online financial crimes and advice/information from bad sources.

1. Many of us use different devices for money transactions. So, log out from all accounts after doing any sort of transaction. This adds another hurdle for a thief to clear.

2. Do not install any random or unknown apps or open any untrusted links on any device. Always check if the URL starts with ‘https’. Anything beginning with “http” should be avoided.

3. There are many fake apps. Usually their logos are slightly different and there will be very few followers. Read user reviews; some users reportedly called the app fake.

4. Check the date of recent publication and the date of update. Fake apps usually only have the first one. Also check if the app asks for unrelated information, such as camera access. Beware of giving access.

5. To remove a fake app, uninstall it from “Settings” not just “bin”. The next step is to restart your phone.

6. Like fake apps, there are fake hosting sites that appear at the top of search engines. Opening such links is dangerous because they appear as real websites and can steal information from your device. Refer to official links, rather than visiting random links appearing on search results.

7. Install powerful anti-virus software on all your devices, whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

8. Do not transact using public Wi-Fi systems; use only secure, password-protected connections.

9. If you notice suspicious activity, report it immediately to the bank, card issuer or payment gateway. Report suspicious apps to Playstore.

10. Besides the safety of the device, also pay attention to the “safety tips”. No person, firm or other entity is authorized to give market-related advice or recommendations, for example on stocks or mutual funds, unless registered with Sebi. Only entities registered with Sebi can provide advice.

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