FASTag & Fraud Risk – Awaiting the Road to Safer Datafication!

The road ahead for India of developing a toll-operate-transfer model has an optimal FASTag implementation at its core, coupled with a robust data-forward centralised system. FASTag – the government of India’s electronic toll collection mechanism – is made official since 15 January 2020. While the government cited a lack of availability of FASTag tags as a reason behind yet another delay in granting it an officially mandating subscription obligation for car owners, the pertinent issue that stares in the eyes of the policymakers is concerning the UPI (Unified Payment Interface) subscriber data safety.

It has been reported that in certain instances, the notorious digital fraudsters have succeeded in applying novel ways to meddle with people’s UPI PIN data, access to which the fraudsters gain via manipulative means – acting on the pretext of simplifying for the potential registrants the online (afresh) FASTag registration.

On a couple of occasions, reports have surfaced revealing the modus operandi used by fraudsters wherein they pretend to be calling from either of the registered partner banks; sharing via SMS a fake link to a (deceitfully titled) online form seeking such sensitive subscriber details as FULL NAME, registered mobile number, UPI PIN data, etc. on the pretext of FASTag wallet activation.

It is vital for the FASTag subscribers at this stage to realise the fact that such baseless registration means proposed and pitched by fraudsters are not the official platforms introduced by the NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) to register for FASTag access. Be mindful that FASTags can only either be self-activated via the MyFastag app or can be activated by visiting the designated (partnering) bank branches nearby.

Therefore, readers should clearly understand that no FASTag subscription or activation formalities are officially carried out on phone calls. Likewise, there is simply no need for sharing any PIN or password in such fraudulent online forms. Clicking on any fictitious SMS links received from doubtful sources should strictly be avoided. Kindly also be advised that there also exists an alternative of registering for NHAI Prepaid wallet which is rechargeable and can be paired with FASTag to initiate safe payments.

As per an Economic Times report, around 6.4 crore FASTag transactions, valuing Rs. 1,256 crore, got processed in December 2019, compared to 3.4 crore transactions valuing Rs. 774 crore in November – as per the FASTag transactions’ data released on January 1, 2020 by the National Payments Corporation of India. Considering the magnitude of transactional volume and the monetary value, it’s vital to sensitise people regarding a safer FASTag navigation pathway especially in its initial years of the rollout; for ensuring safety in the subsequent payment phases, a robust security protocol of NPCI already exists in the form of the Fraud Risk Management mechanism.

Decoding FASTag: How National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) Works?

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has built the RFID-enabled National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) program poised to fulfil the electronic tolling needs of the transport market of India. For the same objective, NPCI now offers a national interoperable toll-payment solution that also inculcates within its scope the offering of clearinghouse services for settlement of disputes. Within its spectrum of offering ‘Interoperability’ (applied to NETC system), it includes a common set of procedures, business rules and technical specifications allowing a customer to utilise their FASTag as a payment mode on either of the toll plazas, regardless of the specifics of the acquirer of the toll plaza.

The various objectives of NETC FASTag are: i. creating a compatible and interoperable toll-collection ecosystem to use nationally. ii. through a simple and robust framework, increase transparency and efficiency in transaction processing. iii. achieving the sub-goals of the Government of India of electronification of retail payments, reducing air pollution via decreased toll plaza congestion, plummeting fuel consumption and promoting cashless transactions, enhancing audit control via user account centralisation

NETC – the technical ecosystem on which the FASTag is based – supports multiple issuers and acquirers authorised for the NETC program. The transaction request from the Toll Plaza is sent to the Acquiring System for transactional validation, and it then moves further so as to finally reach the NETC Switch. The NPCI routes these transactions to the relevant Issuer Bank for debiting the tag-holder account. During the entire process, a particular transaction travels through an 8-step (LEGs) process.

The NETC transaction process flow emanates at the Toll Plaza System (capturing the FASTag data, viz. Tag ID, TID, Vehicle Class, etc.) and travels through the Acquirer Bank for processing, which then sends a request to the Online Switch & Mapper (i.e., the NETC validation mechanism that responds with such details as Vehicle class, VRN, Tag Status, etc. – upon an absence of the Tag ID in NETC Mapper, a response is issued stating that the Tag ID isn’t registered). Following the receipt of a Tag ID validation from the NETC Mapper, the acquirer host calculates the relevant toll fare and emanates a debit request to the NETC system. Then the NETC system switches the debit request to the relevant issuer bank for debiting the customer account.

The Issuer host then debits the linked tag holder account and sends an SMS alert to the tag holder. It also sends the response message to the NETC system. Upon failing to send the response within the defined TAT (Turn-Around-Time), the transaction is considered as Deemed Accepted. The response is then notified to the acquirer host for notifying the respective toll plaza system.

FASTag is LIVE! Buy, Activate, Recharge, & More Info

FASTag

Introduction: The Policy Brief

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI)-introduced National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) mechanism, FASTag – having an embedded chip and antenna – is now live. Operational at 604 toll plazas across national and state highways (click here for the full list), w.e.f. 15 Dec. ’19 (although initially the roll-out of FASTag was scheduled for 1st Dec. ’19 – per the letter sent by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to the NHAI), FASTag enables automatic collection of toll charges. The government then decided to provide enough time for vehicle owners to switch to FASTags – hence the deferred extension.

Dubbed to be the leading disruptor on India’s national highways, FASTag was first envisioned in 2014. All cars, jeeps, vans, buses, trucks and, commercial and private off-road vehicles that pass the toll booths on national highways will now pay FASTag-enabled toll. The FASTag payments at national highways are incentivised with a cash-back scheme of 2.5% – for eligible customers – until March 31, 2020. FASTag is also poised to facilitate seamless traffic monitoring and fitting policy revisions.

Previously, only a single hybrid lane was to be allotted at every toll plaza having FASTag and other modes of payment – facilitating passage and monitoring of over-dimensional or over-sized vehicles. Depending on the traffic situation at high-traffic volume fee plazas, not over 25% ‘FASTag lane of fee plaza’ were planned to be temporarily converted to hybrid lanes – per the instructions given earlier by the ministry to the NHAI.

At this stage, it was to be ensured that the minimum number of the declared FASTag lanes be converted into hybrid lanes for the time being. Further, a minimum of 75% lanes of every fee plaza were to remain declared and operational as FASTag lanes so as to incentivise the vehicles carrying FASTag.

The One Nation One Tag – FASTag ensures interoperability via cashless electronic processes at toll booths. According to the Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) that the states and the highways authority signed, the states’ are poised to receive 50% of the capital expenditure (capex) for the toll infrastructure construction.

Buying FASTag

Buying FASTag is possible by visiting any of the Point-of-Sale (PoS) locations at Toll Plazas or PoS outlets of the NETC Member Banks or their distribution agents or their Sales offices. Otherwise, FASTag can also be availed by applying online at the respective issuer bank’s website or by visiting this NHAI portal link. If you have bought FASTag from Amazon, you will need to download the MyFASTag App and link it to your bank account.

Activating FASTag

  1. Do-It-Yourself Activation: FASTags don’t have banks assigned in advance as they are (bank) neutral at the time of buying from a POS terminal or online platform. The online FASTag can be activated by yourself when you enter vehicle details in the ‘My FASTag’ mobile app. There also exists the flexibility to link the FASTag with any of your current bank accounts via the My FASTag Mobile app. The NHAI Prepaid wallet facility is also offered in My FASTag mobile app for you to load money and get your toll fee debited from the prepaid wallet as against getting it debited from your bank account directly.
  2. Activation by Certified Bank Branch: Alternatively, you can also buy FASTag at the closest certified bank branch and can then link the FASTag with your current bank account.

Document Submission for FASTag

A customer is required to submit the following documents along with the application form for FASTag:

  1. Signed FASTag application form, given by issuer bank that customers must fill and submit to the bank.
  2. Registration Certificate (RC) of the vehicle.
  3. Passport size photograph of the vehicle owner.
  4. KYC (Know Your Customer) documents as per the category of the vehicle owner.
  5. A valid driving license.
  6. Vehicle image (optional).

Recharging the FASTag

Recharging the FASTag account is possible in the denomination of Rs. 100. The maximum amount of recharge is decided depending on the type of vehicle and account link to FASTag. In case the FASTag has previously been linked with your bank account, loading money individually in a prepaid wallet will not be necessary. Although, maintaining enough balance in your FASTag-linked bank account to allow for toll payments is necessary. NHAI prepaid wallet can be recharged via different channels, viz. payment via cheque or via UPI or debit card or credit card or NEFT or Net Banking.

  1. Limited KYC FASTag account holders can’t have a balance of over Rs. 20,000 in their FASTag prepaid wallet. The monthly reload limit is Rs 20,000.
  2. In full KYC FASTag account holders aren’t permitted to have over Rs. 1 lakh in their FASTag prepaid wallet (no monthly reload cap exists).

Recharging a FASTag via the BHIM UPI app is also possible – although, buying FASTag via the BHIM UPI app isn’t possible.