The advent of Internet in 90's has spawned
a new variety of crooks called identity thieves. Their stock in
trade is your everyday transaction.
We execute many transactions in the course of a busy day. You may
write a cheque at nearby consumer store, pay restaurant bill through
credit card, post your resume for a job, order a new cheque book,
apply for a mobile telephone connection or credit card. We seldom
pay any attention to these transactions - but beware, someone else
All these transactions require you to share your personal
information with another party - your name, address, place of employment,
credit card number, PAN number, bank account number, telephone number,
your income etc.
An identity thief collects such pieces of your personal
information and appropriates it without your knowledge to commit
fraud or theft.
Identity theft is a serious crime in more developed
countries where misrepresentation of credit record or social security
number can wreck havoc. However, it is no less a threat in India
or South Asian countries either.
How the Identity thieves work
An identity thief can be very creative and do innumerable mischief
using your personal information. Here are a few examples:
- identity thief uses photocopy of your passport or ration card
to obtain mobile connection in your name. (there are several
such cases pending with Delhi Police)
- The thieves open a new bank account - using your name, date
of birth, PAN number etc. and use it for fraudulent purposes.
- The identity thief takes a car loan in your name
- They call your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you,
change the mailing address on your credit card account. The
imposter then purchases goods from Internet stores using your
credit card information. As your bills are being sent to the
new address, you may not immediately realize there's a problem.
- You have just got a credit card, may be for the first time
in your life, and have not yet signed at the back of the card
(something you should do immediately on receipt of a new credit
card). A man, claiming to be from credit card issuing bank,
says the card has some defect and needs replacement. You hand
over the card to him. The imposter puts his own signature at
the back and starts his shopping binge.
- You receive an e-mail request, presumably from your Internet
Service Provider (ISP) stating that your "account information
needs to be updated" or that "the credit card you signed up
with is invalid or expired and the information needs to be re-entered
to keep your account active". This could be a scam to get your
user-id and password. The identity thief changes the password
and start using your Internet account. What is worse
- apart from losing money, you may face legal suit in case
the identity thief commits criminal act using your mail account
How identity thieves get your personal information
Despite your best efforts to manage the flow of your personal information
or to keep it to yourself, skilled identity thieves may use a variety
of methods - low- and hi-tech - to gain access to your data. Here
are some of the ways imposters can get your personal information
and take over your identity.
Get a copy of your ration card from local ration
Get your credit card information from unscrupulous
Steal your wallet containing identification
and credit / ATM cards.
Steal your mail - including your bank and credit
card statements, income tax information etc.
Complete a "change of address form" to divert
your mail to another location.
Rummage through your wastepaper basket for personal
Fraudulently obtain your credit report by posing
as a landlord, employer or someone else who may have a legitimate
need for and a legal right to - the information.
Get your business or personnel records at work
Find personal information in your home.
Personal information you share on the Internet.
- Buy your personal information from "inside" sources. For example,
an identity thief may pay a store employee to obtain your credit
- Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad
Vol: 3, Issue 44
February 27' 2003
Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various
capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development,
MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce
venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of
his own. He may be reached at email@example.com