In the 1990s, a crime called identity theft became rampant and it involves everyday transactions. With increased financial transactions online, which require one to share personal information such as bank and credit card account numbers, name, address, and phone numbers. An identity thief steals some piece of your personal information and uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft. A common example is the act of using your personal information to open a credit card account in your name.
The FBI says identity theft is the fastest-growing white-collar crime. Sources claim that estimated 500,000 Americans have their identities stolen each year. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which works with identity theft victims, says it takes an average victim of identity theft two years to clear his or her credit rating.
In India, identity theft cases are rising with increasing adoption of the Internet. Identity theft is very easy in India and ignorance is the major cause. The question is “Can one completely prevent identity theft from occurring?” The answer is NO, especially if someone is determined to commit the crime. But one can minimize the risk of being ripped off by managing your personal information with a greater awareness and with heightened sensitivity.
WHAT IS IDENTITY THEFT?
Basically, identity theft is stealing personal information of another person, and using it for fraudulent purposes. It is a crime where fraudster impersonating a victim for the purpose of financial gain or other personal gain. The imposter/fraudster collects key pieces of their personal information, such as Social Security Number or driver’s license numbers, credit card information, name, address, phone numbers etc in order to impersonate someone else. The victim could be an individual or a business. With increased financial transactions online, fraudsters have started using the internet and emails as a bait to lure people into providing them with their personal data.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the most common forms of identity theft are:
Credit Card Fraud- Here a new credit card account is opened with a victim’s name and address or an existing credit card account is “taken over” by a fraudster, who charges items using a victim’s name and account number with no intention of paying the bill.
Communications Services Fraud- In this type of Fraud identity theft starts telephone, cellular, or other utility service in the victim’s name.
Bank Fraud- Here a fraudster opens a checking or savings account in a victim’s name, and/or writes fraudulent checks.
Fraudulent Loans- These cases involve the identity thief procuring a loan, such as a car loan, in a victim’s name.
Internet Fraud- In this type of fraud identity thief uses Web sites, e-mail and off-line methods to try to steal someone’s identity and make off with their assets. Once an ID theft is in the works, the Internet can make the job considerably easier.
HOW IT IS DONE?
The Internet has made it easier for an identity thief to use the information they’ve stolen because transactions can be made without any personal interaction.
According to the Federal Trade Commission FTC, this is how identity thieves get personal information:
•Criminal steal wallets containing identification, credit cards, and ATM cards.
•Criminal steal mails from mailbox, including bank and credit card statements, retail stores bill, pre-approved credit offers, telephone bill, and tax related information. Using stealed information they fill out a “address change forms” to divert your mail to another location.
•They do dumpster diving in which they dig through garbage cans of offices, business for personal data that has been discarded.
•They commit fraud to obtain your credit report by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legitimate need for and legal right to — the information.
•They get your business or personnel records at work. This is usually an “inside job,” done sometimes by a disgruntled employee.
•They use personal information you share on the Internet using key loggers.
•E-commerce sites collect a lot of data from visitors. If you buy a book or a CD at a bookstore and pay cash, there will be no record linking you to the purchase. But the books, magazines, music, and movies you buy online are all linked to you by name. Web retailers are collecting a sizable database of information on individual purchases
•E-commerce sites routinely share your information, or sell it. If an e-commerce site you bought from goes bankrupt, it could be legally required to sell your data to the highest bidder as a company asset. Also, sites routinely sell or exchange your personal information. Privacy advocates are seeking federal legislation requiring Web sites to let users “opt out” of sharing data, as has recently happened in financial services.
•Identity thieves also do some of their best work just by looking over your shoulder also called “shoulder surfing” as you dial your telephone calling card number or punch in your account number or PIN at an automated teller machine (ATM).
To prevent the Identity Theft one must know the motives of the criminal. The form of identity theft that usually criminal do is financial Identity Theft – In this theft criminal tries to obtain the identity of others to hold the goods and services. It is of two types:
1. Criminal would pretend to be the holder of an account and make use of funds. They need to get ID token, PIN and Card Number. Once they are able to get that now they can easily access to various delivery system such as ATM, branch teller, Phone Banking etc.
2. While in the second type of Financial Identity theft criminal would make use of an identity of others to create a new account in the bank. They can apply loan and can take advantage of victim good credit history.
BASIC STEPS TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT
Step 1: Don’t keep the copy of PIN in your wallet. Better learn and keep it in mind.
Step 2: Don’t keep shared documents such as receipts, credit card reports, loan applications and other documents which contain your personal information. Better use shredder or tear the paper in such a way so that nobody can read and make sense out of it, before throwing.
Step 3: Get a copy of Credit card report from bank regularly. Check them and if fraudulent report it immediately.
Step 4: In case Credit Card or Debit Card or ATM Card is lost or stolen. Report it to bank immediately.
Step 5: Keep check on your mails (not email) ,are they coming regularly if not kindly check it may be that criminal have taken some of your mails and used it to get your personal data.
In a time when more and more business is done over the internet, the security of personal information is very important. Here this saying “precaution is better than cure” is most suitable. Try to protect your personal information from fraudster. Otherwise once your personal information is compromised, you will fall for Identity Crisis.
Credit Sudhaar is India’s first Credit Health management & improvement company whose goal is to help clients to Restore, Enhance and Protect their Credit and make them credit healthy.
Credit Sudhaar has recently launched a new product in its product line, CS Identity Shield Whoes goal is to protect the individuals from being victims of Identity Theft in India.
Courtesy : Rediff