Beware of Identity Theft and Identity Fraud

Reji Reji Reji Digital Marketing

Last week I got a voice mail on my mobile from one of my friends asking me to call him back. From the tone of his voice, I realised he is facing some problem, may be an accident or something like that. I called him back immediately. It was surprising for me when he explained how someone had stolen the number plates of his car after he parked it near a restaurant in central London. He told me “I already informed the police, but I just made a call to you to get some contact numbers from the internet to inform the DVLA”.

Many people are still unaware of the consequences of a car identity theft or vehicle identity theft. Why do the criminals steal number plates? They (stolen plates) may be used for drive away crimes like stealing petrol, cheat speed cameras to avoid fines or drug trafficking. So there is a possibility that the blame will come on the person whose name is associated that particular number plate on the register details.

What will happen if we don’t report the incidence like stealing of number plate to the police? Sometime you may have to end up in jail for reasons like careless driving. Maybe you may need to pay unnecessary speeding fines for someone else. Still many people are unaware of the consequences of a car identity theft or vehicle identity theft.

The above mentioned incidence made me think and write this article about other similar type of crimes and frauds. I mean the online version of the same kind of crimes. Online identity thefts also work in a similar manner. Most of the people don’t take it seriously even if they know all the consequences of being a victim of it thinking that it happens occasionally or only to some persons. Be it a vehicle or online identity theft, the victim will always be an innocent person whose identity has been compromised. I am just trying to share my thoughts in order to make people more careful about identity theft and identity fraud.

Identity Theft and Identity Fraud

Identity theft can be defined as the stealing of someone’s personal details like name, date of birth, address or addresses where someone used to live and then using the details to disguise as someone else. They can either obtain those details through online or from paper documents. If a criminal gang or a person uses the stolen personal details to open a bank account or order some valuable goods using those details, then the incidence can be classified as an identity fraud. The emergence of large scale online shopping and online banking transactions make it easier for criminal gangs to steal personal details from the internet. In countries like India, we do access the internet through public connections than a private one in advanced countries. In some cases, people forget to log off and get connect with people they don’t  even know.

Victims of Identity fraud

There are instances where the stolen credit cards are used for purchasing and downloading child pornography, and innocent victims were labelled as paedophile. Imagine someone using your credit card for doing something illegal and then you are getting arrested by the police.

Way back in 2008, when I was new in this country, I remember reading the real life story of a man arrested after suspected charges of being a Paedophile. He was charged with cases for downloading indecent images of children using his credit card. He lost his highly paid job and was almost neglected by his own family and friends. But, later investigations proved that his credit card pin had been used in London and Indonesia almost at the same date and time. Thus, they were able to find the real culprit in this case.

By the time he was cleared of all the charges, it was already late. Also, he had to face the problems related to his financial status. We can imagine the agony someone may face if he or she is faced with a similar situation.

How can someone steal your personal details?

  • Cyber criminals may send e-mails to your inbox in the form of an advertisement asking you to reply to them for various reasons like buying a product. These e- mails which are called phishing e-mails will lead you to a phishing site where you may be asked to enter your personal details your bank account details or credit card details.
  • They can steal information from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.
  • It is possible for them to gather a certain amount of data using search engines as they store a large number of such data in a different form.
  • Spreading of malware through the internet is another source for them to collect data.
  • There are groups of people involved with criminal gangs eager to steal bags and purses that may contain your bank cards, driving licence etc.
  • The criminal gangs may be targeting letter boxes to in search of finding useful documents like the bank statement, credit card statements, utility bills that can provide them with useful personal details.
  • Waste bins of houses and big organisations are a source of personal details in the form of paper documents.
  • There are criminal gangs roaming the streets for secretly watch people typing their PIN number on cash machines. This is termed as “Shoulder Surfing.”

How may they use your personal data? 

  • They may take loans from the account they created.
  • It may be used for buying credit cards
  • They may use your personal data for buying goods like a mobile phone, car etc.
  • They use your personal data to buy even a house so that all the utility bills will be on your name.
  • If they change the current address on the utility bill, you may not be able to trace it for at least a few months or possibly more in some cases.
  • If they apply for bankruptcy in order to avoid making any payments, you will be in trouble of having poor credit rating and unnecessary consequences of it.
  • Criminals may make fake passports on your name in order to leave the country.
  • They may use identities of deceased people for getting jobs and other such benefits.

So here is a list of things that I believe will be helpful to avoid the consequences of ID Theft for an extend.

  • Be careful not to lose any of your documents while you are commuting.
  • Don’t carry unnecessary documents in your bag or wallet while you are travelling.
  • Be cautious while giving personal information over the phone and make sure of the identity of the person who is calling.
  • If you don’t want to keep certain documents like old utility bill or bank statement, shred it correctly before leaving in the bin.
  • Always keep trace of your credit card bills. Check with the bank if you miss any of the bill so that to make sure that it is not being send to another address.
  • If you lose your credit or debit card, don’t make any delay in reporting because someone may use it for doing something illegal over the internet.
  • Don’t forget to cancel any inactive account that you are not using at present.
  • Make it a habit of changing all your online passwords at regular intervals.
  • Make sure that your passwords are not easy to find out by a criminal by using random mix of letters and numbers.
  • If you lose your passport anywhere, report immediately to the police and have the incident report and incident ID from them.
  • Checking your credit history will make you check whether any unnecessary financial transactions are going on or not.
  • Don’t forget to renew your anti-virus / anti-malware on your computer.
  • Make it a habit of scanning your computer at least twice a day if you use it for long hours.
  • Use different passwords for different sites and e-mails.
  • Before you buy something or download software, check the reputation of the site.
  • Always make it a point to report immediately if you lose your mobile phone (especially smart phones with a large amount of personal details including photos and video clippings).
  • Destroy your old or used SIM cards because someone may use the same card for doing anything illegal in nature.

Even if we are fully aware of the dangers and consequences of  identity theft, it  is nearly impossible to find a hundred percent solution to avoid the issue. We are moving towards a world where we can’t even imagine living without the internet, e-mail and social media for every day-to-day activity. The only strategy in front of us is to be cautious by following precautionary measures like those described above.

Further suggestions on improving the content, ideas and comments are welcome.

Reference: Accessed at 21:00 hours on 15/01/14

Sigsworth   “I was falsely branded a paedophile” 03/04/2008 Accessed at 16: 00 hrs on 15/01/14 Accessed at 22:00 hours on 15/01/14 Accessed at 22:00 Pym on   16/01/14        Accessed at 10:55 on 16/01/14 Accessed at 23:30 at 16/01/14

Accesses at 01:38 on 17/01/14

Image courtesy:Pixabay

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