In today’s always-connected world, the risk of Identity Theft is also rising. In this blog, I have made an attempt to let the readers know about this precarious crime. And share a few tips to reduce your risk of becoming an Identity Theft victim. These tips may help you to safeguard your finances, credit and good name.
Identity Theft: Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information (like Name, Date of Birth, Address, Phone Number etc.) in order to obtain loan, credit cards, phone connection etc. or misuse it for any other illegal purpose. Identity theft is also a type of Cyber Crime wherein the deceivers can use someone’s personal information to:
a) Buy products online
b) Obtain loan, credit card etc. in his/ her name
c) Open Bank accounts using his/ her name and identity
d) Take a mobile/ internet connection
e) Takeover or have access to all his/ her existing Bank accounts
f) Obtain authentic documents like passport, Driving Licence, Voter ID etc. in his/ her name
The act of stealing someone’s information for the purpose of illegal activity is called Identity Theft and using that information in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception is known as Identity Fraud. It is very common to interchangeably use both these terms i.e. Identity Theft and Identity Fraud. The person whose identity is misused for any of the above mentioned crimes, is known as the Victim of Identity Theft.
With the increased use of internet and easy access to someone’s personal information and photographs, it has become convenient for the impostors to create fake documents like driving licence etc. in someone’s name. The victim gets to know about it only when he starts receiving bills in his name or may never even get to know about this at all. There had been instances where the fraudster used victim’s identity to create fake IDs on social networking sites. And a few situations where fraudsters misused the identity to obtain new connection and changed the address later, so that the victim should not get to know that his identity was misused.
Popular types of Identity Theft:
Account Takeover: which includes Financial Identity Theft wherein the criminal uses the stolen information to have access to victim’s existing accounts. And further misuse it by changing the address of all those accounts (like credit card, bank account etc.) so that the statement or bill never reaches at victim’s address and criminal can continue to enjoy shopping and other benefits fraudulently. In this way, the criminal/ fraudster takes over the existing accounts of the victim.
True Name Theft: where the fraudster misuses victim’s information to create fake documents and open new account in his/ her name. This may include obtaining a loan, credit card, phone, internet connection etc.
Criminal Identity theft: where the thief may use victim’s identity for any criminal or illegal activity. This may include Identity Cloning i.e. pretending to be someone else for executing any criminal offense.
Medical Identity Theft: wherein the fraudster uses victim’s insurance information for availing medical benefits like mediclaim etc.
Tips for protecting yourself from Identity Theft:
You can avoid becoming a victim of Identity Theft by following these precautions:
1. Ensure to keep your financial information at a safer place. Never misplace your Bank Account information, Insurance details, credit card Information and Loan details.
2. Always read through your credit card statement and Bank account statement carefully and match all the transactions that you made. If you do not receive your monthly statement/ bill by expected date, inform it to your customer care and track it. It is better to be subscribed to mobile/ email alerts and keep a check on all the alerts.
3. Verify the statements of your Health insurance plan. The claims (if any) paid by the insurance company should match the mediclaim availed by you.
4. Safely dispose your personal information i.e. Never throw any paper or letter with your name, address, phone number or financial details without shredding it first.
5. Access you bank statement regularly over a safe internet connection. Always keep updated anti-virus in your system to avoid any virus attacks and malwares.
6. Purchase and review your credit report at least once in a year. If you notice any information that does not belong to you, then raise a dispute request with the respective credit agency.
7. Never respond to the emails asking your personal information, bank account or credit card information even if the sender name reflects as your Bank name. Remember, your Bank never asks for such information over the emails or phone. Refrain from sharing information unless you have initiated the contact or know who you are dealing with.
8. Avoid using internet banking over a public computer or Wi-Fi and refrain from sharing your passwords with anyone.
9. Ensure not to over share information about yourself over the social networking or publicly accessible sites. Limit the accessibility to your networking page to a small group of people and use the privacy settings to avoid sharing of information publicly.
10. If you have lost your credit/ debit card, immediately inform it to the respective customer care and block the card.
11. Always keep your documents, passwords and PINs at a safe place, preferably a lockable drawer. Following and inculcating the same as a routine habit helps you to avoid becoming a victim of Identity Theft.
Punishment for Identity Theft in India
Under the Information Technology Act 2000 Chapter IX Sec 66C
Section 66C- Whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly makes use of the electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature of any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lakh.
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