Friday, February 27, 2015

Harassed life - the problems of paying by cheque

My car insurance may be cancelled because the cheque was returned for 'Signatures not matching'. I have spent the last hour trying to overcome and prevent any complication.

I regret my mistake of having signed the cheque. My hand involuntarily shakes at times and the banks have a problem with tallying my signatures. Normally, I ask my wife to sign if I cannot pay by card or online.

I have had problems with my telephone bill some years ago - bsnl would not accept a cheque payment from me after that! Mobile phone company charged me a absurd penalty for cheque bouncing. In each of these cases, I had a hard time finding a problem in my signature. For all I know, the clerk may have been looking at the wrong record.

Does it have to be so? Is there any risk in payment of bills? What could possibly go wrong, which cannot be corrected?

Should we not assume that a cheque is valid unless it has been reported as stolen or there are some serious problems with it?

I think our society has complicated our rules and, hence, our lives just because the correction process is a problem. For example,
.Justice T S Thakur ... blamed “lack of governance” and “officials’ inability to take decisions” as prime reasons behind the deluge of cases choking the justice delivery system
... the top court of the country was compelled to spend a lot of time on cases involving bounced cheques ...
In the early days at the branch level, sometimes a helpful staff member would call and check before rejecting a cheque. However, now the clearing is happening in the back office in Mumbai and the branch staff is helpless.

I am hoping that soon either mobile payments will make cheques obsolete or robots will make the verifying clerks obsolete. The robots can easily send an sms or call us to confirm whether the cheque is valid and bring back a degree of personalization in an increasingly impersonal world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Who is really harassing the pensioners?

It is really painful when I come across news like this:
Don't Harass Pensioners: Government Tells Bank
Even a moment's reflection makes it obvious that the only person who CAN be held accountable in this whole process is the bank officer who signs off. If the bank official is fearful and excessively cautious, it is hard to blame him/her.

We as a society are so absorbed by the process of submitting forms that we never think of them as being redundant, pointless, wasteful, etc. etc.

Obviously, far fewer pensioner die each year than not. So, efficiency would suggest that the government get certificates from the people who are dead. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy has not found a way to do that. So, the rest of us have to prove that we are alive.

Even searching for a pensioner's record on a supercomputer and entering a 'y' in one field takes time. However, in our process, it is far worse as the bank has to collect the papers. Very likely the bank catalogs them to make sure that they have proof of having sent them. Recipient clerk will need to make an entry for having received them and forwarded them to the correct department, which in turn, ... (I have to find out where did my life certificate disappear or just give another and hope that it doesn't get lost again.)

Trust the pensioners and their families instead. I can't imagine any person(other than brain-dead) waking up enthusiastically every morning to work on life certificates! Focus the effort and energies of the bank officials and government staff freed from this dumb work to detect frauds. As this example illustrates, such frauds can only exist only because the staff is too busy doing dumb work to notice. If it is corruption and collusion, how on earth do life certificates help?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Safety in paper ceritficates? - An entry on the PAN site would be of far better

How would I submit a form 15H form(to not deduct tax on interest income) to a branch in another city? One year, I had submitted the form for my mother but the tax had been deducted. I had no proof and what would have been the point. My mistake had been to not check that the taxes were being deducted each quarter by that bank.

  • Income tax office has progressed and made it easy to know the taxes deducted at source. I wish they would go a step further and I should be able to file form 15H with them(obviously online) and the banks should use this information using the PAN number. 
  •  This year my pension has stopped even though I had submitted a certificate that I am alive. It is a ridiculously low sum but when I go back to Chandigarh, I will have to take up the issue with the branch. For those who die, if they had a PAN, the registrar of deaths could change the status on the PAN site. Why bother to collect 'proof' of being alive once a year? I suppose I could die abroad or may disappear without a trace but do these few instances justify the collection and storage of the huge number of life certificates each year and does it even help?
  • Even the tax status, e.g. resident/non-resident, could be just reported to the PAN site and there should be no need to change bank accounts from resident to NRO, at least for individuals who are not HNI. Technically, only individuals residing in India can open a savings bank account. So, what is the status of these accounts once a person is non-resident? This is a routine issue for any IT person going on an assignment for a year or more. As per the law, should the person close each such account if not residing in India for more than 6 months in a year?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Google - please collect caller id's of fraudulent callers because the banks won't

The cumulative time  I must have spent even on blindly clicking that I know that the bank does not ever ask for pin numbers or passwords must have crossed a working day. Yesterday, I got an idiotic call from my 'bank' regarding my 'atm' card. I wanted to report the number for further action by 'someone' and didn't after recalling my previous experiences.

I had received a call offering me a 'bonus' for an insurance policy as the company had made an excessive profit. I decided to send the details to the insurance company. I got a prompt response that as I knew, these were fraudulent calls and not to give them any information.

But that was not the reason I had informed the insurance company. I was hoping that the insurance company could initiate action against the crooks using the phone number. After all, what is purpose for all the documentation the government insists on before a telephone number can be allotted and used.

Since the insurance company was not interested, I located the service provider to whom the phone belonged but they were not interested either as my number was not from their company. On second thought, such calls may even contribute a significant sum to their revenues.

Google makes it so easy to report phishing attempts on emails. For calls,  the only data that is needed is the caller id and whether spam or phishing. No one need look at this data. A monitoring program can raise alerts as and when a statistically significant event occurs.

So, I can't understand that while the banks make so much effort to tell their account holders not to respond to phishing attempts, they are yet to make any effort to collect the caller id data and then use the data to stop the fraudsters before they can cause any damage.

May be Google will find a way to collect this data and monetize it and I can have the satisfaction of doing my neighbourly duty of reporting a phishing attempt.