• Mohana Prabhakar

Playing the numbers game

I have no idea how and why it came about, but I have always believed that keeping numbers in my head would keep my mind from getting mushy. Telephone numbers of at least 25 people, including family and friends from here and far away; passport numbers and all other details of my husband, son and myself; one credit card number, CVC, expiry; number plates of at least ten cars; birthdays of at least 30 people and so on.

The last one is actually quite useless because, though I could list out the birthdays for you right now if you asked me, the probability of my forgetting them on the day itself is unfortunately very high. I also don’t know why I commit people’s licence plates to memory or how it could help me unless I am planning to stalk them.

It is therefore strange that certain numbers that you are supposed to store only in your head, like your ATM pin, I find I can never remember. I put that down to my inexplicable reluctance to operate machines in order to get it to dispense something, be it tickets, a Coke or cash. I always have visions of my coins, my credit card or my ATM card vanishing in an attempt to extricate any of the above objects from its metallic depths.

Adding the chances of fraud to this equation is really a bit much for my already fragile relationship with machines. I was travelling recently and the necessity of shopping overcame my reluctance to use an ATM. My ATM habits, needless to say, are not exemplary. For instance, I head to the first ATM I see. A friend who was with me at the time

said that, if possible, I should always use the ATM machines inside the bank premises rather than out on the street.

You are always told to be aware of people standing around you at the ATM, and I don’t really look at how close someone is standing, or if they are watching, as long as they appear ‘respectable’. This is not a sound strategy for fraud prevention, as conmen have proven time and time again.

Apparently in a third of all ATM frauds around the world, the PIN was on the person of the victim or actually written on the card. I save mine on my phone under some very clever fictitious names, or so I believed. Mo H or Mo BM, is perhaps not a code to be proud of.

I also tend to use the same password for multiple things. I do have different levels of passwords: One each for - not so important; fairly important; and dangerous. What one must also do is change these often, but somehow I don’t get around to doing it. I log in to my online banking and I am told, ‘We urge you to change your password. It is 300

days old.’ I think about doing it, then think I need a clever password and so, of course, will do it later. The next time I notice it, it is 574 days old.

Before going on holiday a few years ago, my husband and I realised that we would not be able to remember all the PINs we could need, so we decided to use what we thought was a smart way of storing them on our phone.

We added zeroes and ones at the beginning or end of the actual PINs, but of course when we stood in front of the machine, we had forgotten what we had added where. So there we were, performing an impromptu play tentatively titled ‘Two Idiots And A Machine’, with memorable dialogues like “Does the zero go in front of the two? Or is after the four? Was it one zero or two? Oh wait, wasn’t it one and not zero? Are you sure? No, I think…I don’t know.”

India’s new, much-discussed cashless economy is obviously going to be a challenge for me. As would Vegas, but I’m not headed there anytime soon.

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