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If you use online financial websites and don’t know this yet, you had better be careful what personal details you share, and prepare to receive unsolicited calls
For someone who doesn't understand the intricacies of financial websites, a cursory visit to one of these online counters recently, was quite an education. Wanting to see how it all works, this writer clicked a simple application for an insurance product on apnapaisa.com and lo and behold, within a short time there were calls from other websites like moneyduniya.com and ffreedom.in, apart from some insurance agents.
It was strange to receive such unsolicited calls. It was even more strange when one broker made an offer to help with financial planning, something that was not even asked for in the application. Clearly, the callers had got the telephone number from the entry on the application on apnapaisa.com. By sharing this personal detail with others, had the website violated the privacy/security policy that is supposed to ensure against such intrusion?
Apnapaisa is a comprehensive online counter that helps research and arrange for loans, buy insurance plans and explains investment options, through a comparative study of various available products. Browsing the site for term insurance plans, I selected one at random and went ahead and requested for information about it.
What surprised me though, when I started receiving the calls, was that the callers addressed me by the same pseudo name that I had written in my application. ffreedom.in offers financial planning services. It also suggests insurance products, but only after one has created a financial plan through them. The minimum cost for this is Rs2,500.
When contacted Bienu Vaghela, chief editor, apnapaisa.com, she said moneyduniya.com is a website of Suskh Technology Pvt Ltd, and that Suskh is an advertiser and registered direct sales agent (DSA) on Apnapaisa. Therefore, it was allowed to use a customer's details as a lead for insurance products.
Ms Vaghela said she had no idea how ffreedom.in got the details, but presumed that it may have registered as an agent to get the information. She said all agents were genuine, but that the list was long and there could be some who may be use the details to cross-sell other products.
Perhaps, I should not be surprised if I receive calls some time soon, offering credit cards with complimentary health insurance. But is Apnapaisa to be blamed, or are agents at fault? Would it be possible for Apnapaisa to keep a track on all its agents? Theoretically, maybe, but practically it would be a daunting task.
This was just one example. There are some 20-plus websites specialising in selling financial products. There is bimadeals.com, insurancepandit.com, policybazaar.com, to name a few. They offer information about products ranging from loans and insurance to credit cards, from financial planning to investments. And many of them seek personal details like a person's name, email address, mobile phone number, and sometimes even the date of birth, before generating information about a product that the customer is seeking. The misuse of such private details, it seems, will remain a serious issue.