What is Identity theft?
Identity theft is an act of using someone else’s personal identifying information such as name, identifying number, address, credit card number, or any government-issued ID, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes such as making unauthorized transactions or purchases. It is a faceless crime that leaves the victim financially and emotionally vulnerable.
The threat of identity theft is increasingly felt all over the world and the crime rate is at an all-time high. Identity theft is not a new phenomenon; It has been a part of society ever since the internet and computers have come into existence. All across India, the fastest-growing White Collar Crime in the nation has been identified as Identity Theft, and it is affecting each one of us in insidious ways.
Identity theft is the largest contributor to fraud in India. A major growing problem in the world due to the revolution in Information Technology is Identity theft.
- Identity theft contributes to 28 percent of overall frauds in India.
- The fraud rates are highest for credit cards whereas two-wheelers have the lowest fraud rates.
- Delhi and West Bengal have the highest fraud rates followed by Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana.
- Every minute about 19 people fall victim to Identity theft.
- Frauds due to applicants submitting fraudulent contact information have risen by 3% contributing to 18% of all detected frauds.
- The mortgage portfolio has observed a 50% increase in the fraud incidence rate.
- Falsification of address proof is the most popular behavior seen amongst fraudsters.
- Peopleaging 25 to 64 (8%) had higher prevalence rates of identity theft than people aging 18 to 24 (4%) and 65 or older (6%)
Types of Identity theft
Financial Identity theft
This is the most common type of Identity theft, where someone wants to gain financial benefits in someone else’s name. Here, the fraudster will use the victim’s personal information such as credit card or ATM card details to obtain credit, goods, services, or benefits. In some cases the fraudster will take a loan on the victim’s name, writing the cheques in the victim’s name or transferring money from the victim’s account.
Criminal Identity theft
This type of Identity theft occurs when a criminal who has been arrested for committing a crime presents himself as another person, by using that person’s details and personal information like producing a fake ID to try to avoid a summons, prevent the discovery of a warrant issued in their real name, or avoid an arrest or conviction record. This allows the charges to be pressed against a completely innocent person, letting the real criminal escape without a trial. The victims might only learn of such incidences only when it’s too late or when they are summoned by the court.
Synthetic Identity theft
This is generally the most difficult type of Identity theft to discover. In this type, the identities are completely fabricated or partially fabricated. Here the fraudster will combine fake or made-up credentials with legitimate personal information (mostly stolen) to create a completely new identity. This false identity can be used to commit crimes or financial fraud. Synthetic identity theft allows the criminal to steal money from any credit card companies or lenders who extend credit based on fake identity.
Identity cloning and concealment
Identity concealment or cloning is a type of identity theft where the thief tries to hide his true identity mostly to hide from the authorities. This type of theft is common among illegal immigrants who try to hide their illegal status or people who hide from creditors. This can also be used by someone who simply wants to become anonymous. Thus, instead of using someone else’s identity for financial gains or committing crimes, it is used by the thief to live the life of the person whose information is obtained.
Medical Identity theft
Medical Identity theft occurs when the criminal uses the information of someone else to get prescription drugs, see the doctor, or claim the insurance benefit. The result is, the medical records of the criminal are added to the victim’s record. Thus, this has serious consequences on the medical records of the victim.
Child Identity theft
Child identity theft occurs when a minor’s identity is used by another person for the impostor’s personal gain. The impostor can be a family member, a friend, or even a stranger who targets children. This is common, as children typically do not have information associated with them that could pose obstacles for the perpetrator
How Identity Theft Happens
Due to the nature of technology and the internet, your personal information is always at risk. If you’re not carefully monitoring your credit file, you may not notice you’ve been victimized until the damage is already done. Here are some of the most common ways identity thieves get hold of your data:
For the most part, you can browse the internet safely, especially if you stick to well-known websites. But if you share any information on an unsecure website or a website that’s been compromised by hackers you could be putting your sensitive information directly in the hands of a thief.
Dark Web Marketplaces
The dark web is often where your personally-identifying information ends up after it’s been stolen. Hackers may not necessarily be stealing your information to use it for themselves, but will instead choose to sell it to others who have potentially nefarious intentions.
Malware is malicious software that’s designed to wreak all sorts of havoc. Fraudsters may use malware is to steal your data or spy on your computer activity without you knowing.
Credit Card Theft
One of the simplest forms of identity theft is credit card theft. If a thief can gain access to your credit card information, they can use it to make unauthorized purchases. Common ways credit card theft occurs are through a data breach, physical theft, credit card scammers and via online retail accounts where card information is stored.
Since long before the internet, identity thieves have been combing through the mail to find documents that held personal information. Bank and credit card statements and any other document you send or receive through the postal system can be intercepted and used to gain access to your data.
Phishing and Spam Attacks
Some scammers use email and text messages and other forms of electronic communication to steal your sensitive information. The message often looks like it’s coming from a reputable source and asks victims to give up one or more types of information. For example, a bogus email made to look like it’s from your bank may include a link that directs you to a spoof website that looks just like the one it’s mimicking. Once there, the website may ask you for a username and password, or to input credit card information or your Social Security number. If something seems suspicious, it might be an attempt at identity theft.
Warning signs of Identity theft
Most of the victims don’t come to know of the fraud until long after the incident. They dismiss possible indicators as mistakes and take no action or corrective measures. These are some of the signs that you should look for:
- An unexpected call from an unknown number posing as a bank employee or a service provider asking to renew your KYC details.
- A warning notice from a bank or service provider.
- Unexplained entries/purchases in your credit card statement.
- An unexpected email asking you to fill a form and enter your personal details such as name, address, bank account number, mobile number, Card details, etc.
How to protect yourself against fraud
- Click on any unauthorized link.
- Share personal information such as PIN, Credit/Debit Card number, expiry date, and CVV number among others with unauthorized personnel over e-mail, call, or SMS.
- Regularly check your credit and debit card statements and transaction history for any suspicious behavior.
- Register your e-mail ID and mobile number for instant alerts and stay informed about all activities in your bank account.
Stay Satark. Stay Vigilant.