What is identity theft and how can you protect yourself?
A few weeks ago there were reports of fraudulent use of PAN cards to obtain loans from a fintech lending app. Many people were shocked to see loans registered against their PAN and some of the loans were not even repaid resulting in the deterioration of their credit score. Cases of identity theft are on the rise. Can you protect yourself against such disbelievers? Yes, and here’s how.
What is identity theft?
In identity theft, a person wrongfully impersonates another person. Identity can be of any type – name, date of birth, bank account number, debit or credit card number, phone number and other related personal identities. These credentials are stolen primarily to conduct illegal or fraudulent activities. For example, your debit card can be stolen to buy goods, your PAN card can be used without your knowledge to obtain loans, and your phone number can be stolen to access OTPs.
“Identity theft is the criminal offense of improperly obtaining and using another person’s personal and financial information to obtain credit, loans or services. Identity theft can be committed in many ways and usually results in considerable damage to the victims’ finances, credit and reputation. Therefore, protecting information is critical in any growing industry that tracks people’s credit reports, financial activity and PAN details,” says Bhavin Patel, Co-Founder and CEO of LenDenClub, a P2P ready.
The most recent identity theft
IndiaBulls Group is a diversified real estate and financial services conglomerate. Their fintech lending app “Dhani” has been used to obtain loans based on the identity details of several people like PAN without the knowledge of the real owner. One of the consequences of non-payment of the loans was that the victims’ credit rating suffered. Dhani Loans and Consumer Services (formerly known as Indiabulls Consumer Finance) said: “We assess all complaints to see if it was a case of identity theft and rectify the records within credit bureaus,” Zeenews reported.
How not to fall prey to identity theft
Identity theft is a major problem and 55 million people fall prey to it in just 10 countries, according to the Norton Cyber Security Safety Insights 2021 report. 27.7 million victims. So how can you protect yourself?
“You can check if someone has taken out a loan in your name using your PAN number by looking at your credit score. Credit bureaus such as CIBIL, Equifax, Experian or CRIF High Mark can provide information on loans in your name. Keep an eye on your financial transactions with the credit institutions you do business with. To find out if someone else has taken out a loan on your PAN card, simply enter your personal information, such as your name and date of birth, and your PAN card number on the agency’s website. credit, and the details will show,” says Joginder Rana, vice president and general manager of CASHe, a lending platform.
Keep regular track of your credit score: You can and should know when and where your PAN is being used. Use various credit bureau websites to check whether your PAN was used to get a loan or not. If you do not recognize any transaction, immediately report the matter to the cybercrime division of the police.
“In the credit bureau report, there’s a separate data point that tells you how many times you applied for a loan in the last 30, 60, or 90 days. If you haven’t applied for a loan in those many days and you notice loan activity, it’s a sign that your PAN is being misused,” says Mukesh Bubna, Founder and CEO of Monexo Fintech.
- Do not store identity information in digital form: Do not store photos of your PAN, Aadhaar card or any other ID card in your phone gallery. In the unfortunate event that your phone is hacked or stolen, your documents will also be stolen and then misused.
- Using an unreadable wallet: There are several wallets available that can block RFID (radio frequency identification) signals so that a bad actor cannot scan your debit or credit card details. Use it to prevent your card details from falling into their hands.
- Check the website you are transacting on: Most modern websites have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. This certificate authenticates the identity of said site and also allows an encrypted connection. You can also check whether a website is secure or not just by looking at its URL. If it starts with ‘https://’, it is secured with SSL or other encryption certificates. “The first and most important precaution to prevent identity theft is to protect your computer and smartphone with powerful and up-to-date security software. Use strong passwords and change them regularly with a combination of letters, symbols Weak passwords are a cybercriminal’s dream, especially if you tend to use the same password everywhere,” adds Rana.
- Check your statements: Credit card companies and other loan companies send monthly statements. Scan the statement entries and if you don’t recognize any transactions, immediately call their helpline number for clarification. “Many financial institutions send text messages or emails when transactions are made on your accounts. Sign up to find out when and where your credit cards are used, when there are withdrawals or deposits to financial accounts and more,” adds Rana.