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India's latest fraud fighter: Suppandi, the stumble-prone cartoon
For years, India has been a world hotbed of credit card fraud and identity theft. But now, its beloved children's magazine Tinkle is fighting back with the help of India's cartoon equivalent of Goofy.
Suppandi, the village simpleton, has been entertaining Indian kids in the comic pages of Tinkle for 30 years. His Twitter account, @Suppandi, is filled with such giggle-inducing financial advice as "A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it," "I don't find it hard to meet expenses. They're everywhere!" and "Money talks, but all mine ever says is 'goodbye.'"
Now Visa is using Suppandi's misadventures to educate first-time cardholders about the dangers of sketchy credit card offers, attempts to obtain their private financial information via online "phishing," and other schemes designed to entice and entrap the stumble-prone among us.
The 12-part financial education series for kids debuted in late summer with a four-page Tinkle spread on how to recognize and combat phishing. The Suppandi tutorials will also appear on Visa's online platforms in India.
Exploring the perils of phishing proved a particularly timely opening volley. A 2013 study done by RSA, the security division of U.S. data storage company EMC, found that India ranks fourth in the world for targeted phishing attacks. In phishing attacks, the con artists use various come-ons to convince the unsuspecting to divulge their private ID or credit card information. Such attacks doubled in India during the past year.
One official with the study noted that the explosion of new account activity has produced an equally insidious downside. "Banks are promoting online transactions in a big way, and are winning newer customers. This is the opportunity that cyberfraudsters are targeting," the official says.
While young cardholders are most in need of guidance to protect themselves from the upbeat, smiley-faced card scams, their parents will also benefit from Suppandi's stumble toward financial enlightenment, according to Samir Chaudhary, co-founder of the Bangalore-based media planning firm Media Ant.
"Tinkle has a significantly large legacy readership. A 40-year old who buys it for his child still goes through the magazine he used to read as a kid," Chaudhary says.
Uttam Nayak, Visa country manager for India and South Asia, says it's never too soon to teach children how to protect their financial information. "The earlier you arm them with knowledge, the better will be the outcome," Nayak says.
Even Suppandi couldn't have Tweeted it better.
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