Have you ever paid attention to the fact that in today’s digital age, your personal information like name, date of birth, address, phone number, email ID etc. are easily accessible online and offline. Did you know that such easily available information can lead to the simplest form of identity theft? With this bit of basic information, some fraudster can be on his way to buy a phone connection or a credit card pretending to be you. And you won't know about it until you get your statement and it's too late!
Identity theft has become rampant around the world today and has become one of the fastest growing crimes of this century. It occurs when someone uses another person's personal information, such as name, credit card number, bank account details, address, or other identifying information to take on that person's identity, in order to commit financial fraud or other crimes. Contrary to popular belief, the primary cause of it is not because more people are online, since the crime of identity theft is not limited to online transactions or online banking. But, it is caused by people not paying attention to the contents of sensitive information that they receive, online or offline, such as personal details, bank or credit card statements, telephone bills, and not guarding that information with the care that it deserves.
Stealing an identity is, unfortunately, surprisingly easy to do and happens when you least expect it. Protecting yourself is very important. If someone steals your identity it can take months or even years to recover from the disorder they leave behind.
ID theft can have a grave affect on its victims
The number of new cases of identity theft is on the rise. This relatively new trend is the result of Internet’s influence on easy information access. According to Norton Cybercrime Report 2011, globally 431 million adults experienced cybercrime in 2011 and more than 1 million plus adults become victims of it every day. As per the report, India is fast emerging as a soft target for organized cybercrime with four in five online adults becoming victims of identity theft in 2011.
From crude methods to well organized scams, identity theft works in a range of ways. Identity theft can enter into many areas of our lives. Most of us have a wealth of personal information readily available—cards in our wallet, mail, letters, bank/credit card statements received in post, public records, information saved in our computers, passwords, PIN numbers and information posted on social networking sites. Identity theft can happen easily and quickly. Since this sensitive personal information is readily available, fraudsters get easy access to plan ID theft.
TYPES OF ID THEFT: MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM
- Credit and Debit cards can be applied for in the name of another individual
- Fraudulent bank loans can be applied for in the name of the victim
- Phone connections can be taken to carry out forgery and other frauds
- A multiple range of debts can be incurred in victim’s name
- E-mail ids and social networks profiles can be created using false information
- The information can be used in various illegal activities in victim’s name
- Applying and earning a job with victim’s I.D.
- Illegal acts can be performed by applying for new driver’s licenses or passport
Being aware of the types of identity theft can help you to know how to better protect you and your family.
Most identity theft victims don’t come to know of the fraud, until long after the incident. They dismiss possible indicators as mistakes or mix-ups and take no corrective measures like:
- Unexpected verification call from a bank or a service provider
- A warning or notice from a bank or service provider
- Unexplained entries in your Credit Report
- Debit of small amounts in bank statements
- Unfamiliar purchases in your card statement
- Receiving a statement or bill for a service you don’t have
PROTECT YOURSELF: BASIC STEPS TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT
- Do not disclose your personal details online or on social networks.
- Do not respond to suspicious emails asking for your personal details and never disclose your bank, credit/debit card details and PIN numbers to anybody online or offline.
- Ensure you use adequate updated antivirus software.
- If you receive a request from a friend or family member stranded while on holiday asking you to transfer money to them, contact them by phone or alternative contact to verify the request is genuine before sending any money or providing personal details.
- Regularly check your credit card and/or bank statements to ensure that suspicious transactions are detected.
- Shred all documents containing personal information, such as credit card and bank statements.
- Log directly onto websites you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.
- Read your credit report from time to time to track any suspicious changes.
ID theft can have grave, sometimes having devastating repercussions on its victims, ranging from financial loss, and damaged credit ratings to the loss of reputation. In a time when more and more information is being shared both online and offline, the security of personal information is very important. Be careful with your personal information, since becoming a victim of identity theft can take months and even years to straighten out!
Ian Robert Craig, Managing Director, CPP India is an ID Protection guru and has been at the forefront of taking ID products and service offerings across U.K. He is working with leading banks and financial institutions to develop ID solutions for India market.