Identity Theft

Identity-TheftOn a normal “billing day” you receive your credit card bill. Everything appears normal until your come upon an entry related to a transaction on an online site with your credit card, something which you are damn sure you haven’t done.

At first you think it’s a system error so as a good customer you call your bank and inform them of the error. You are polite, understanding, forgiving. But the bank insists that you did purchase on the site. Slowly you begin to lose your cool. Haven’t you repeatedly said that you did not make the purchase, isn’t your credit record clean? How could they still insist that you made the purchase? They inform you of their security checks of their fraud alerts and the whole nine yards. Then after a week of calls, mails and visits, the bank runs a check again. Their fraud team is now getting a little worried. They’re thinking “How can such a loyal, clean customer continue to deny the purchase?” And then the thought occurs!

The system does not know you, it know your numbers and your documents!

You’ve just been robbed! Rather you have become a victim of identity theft.

Webster’s defines identity Theft as the fraudulent appropriation and use of someone’s identifying or personal data or documents, as a credit card.

Imagine that you are driving your car. You get pulled over by the cops for over speeding. You hand them your license and they give you a hefty fine. The “ticket” is made out to the name written on the Drivers License, the DL number is written down and the address is noted.  The cop checks the photo on the Drivers License and then walks away. The ticket is billed to a stranger who lives about 50 miles away and has never even been on the street you got caught on. So how did he get the ticket? He got it because you “stole his identity” in this case the Driver’s License.

A simple example but fraudsters are always surfing the net looking for prey who do not know that a simple e-mail asking for the bank account number or online banking password is all they need to make you a victim of identity theft. Identity theft in the old days had imposters dressing up like knights and lords and stealing silver. But the online fraudster who will steal your identity is the deadliest of all evolution as there are chances that they won’t leave behind any electronic  or physical evidence about the identity theft. Their con gets lost in the ocean of bytes and their true identity is never revealed. And they are the toughest to catch.

What are the Repercussions that one may face with identity theft?

A malicious individual can gather information about you from the profiles you create online. These can then be used to establish accounts in your name or use it to access your existing financial accounts.

They can also use your very own personal information for contacting “black listed” organizations and individuals making it seem as if you have ties with them. Once your information is compromised you can be hit by any fraudster anywhere at any time! From making some pretty deadly purchases to using your information, launder money and kind, perverting the internet and to selling your information for profit to the highest bidder once you’re compromised you might get caught in a mess. These are a few examples of how identity theft may hit you.

So how do you protect yourself from identity theft?

Here are a few basic pointers on how you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

  • Don’t give private information: – Just because a form contains a space for your very private information doesn’t mean you have to fill it in. Read why the particular form requires the details and most importantly ask questions. Take note of the e-mails from banks, brokers etc. about the fraud e-mails that they have found.
  • Protect your computer: – If you’re using a wireless connection to access the Internet, make sure it’s secure. There is a ton of information on the internet about what constitutes a secure line. Know the SSL (Secure Socket Layer) requirements for transactions and the “Https” link showing a secured link. You should update your virus protection regularly and ensure that whenever you download any attachments that your anti-virus protects you against Trojans, viruses etc.
  • Keep record of your billing: – As a consumer it is imperative for you to have a record of what you have purchased and from where. You can avoid credit cards thefts as you will be a vigilant consumer. Also have a contact with your Bank for an update whenever you make a deposit for online purposes.
  • Take care of your e-mail: -Always have an anti-virus installed to check your e-mail for any virus/Trojan attachments. Also you must ensure who you are in contact with and deal with unknown senders/spammers with care as any complacency on your part and you just might be made a target of identity theft.
  • Good shopping habit: – Try to make sure that when you Shop online you do so from secure sites which can encrypt your order and details of your credit card number. All online purchase sites must have an “Https” secure link. Also be very careful when disclosing your credit and other information, it’s not that all the purchase sites are out to rob you but there are sites that will rob you.
  • Put strong passwords on your accounts: – Password protection is the first line of defense against online fraudsters and identity theft.  If you keep a weak password it will be easily cracked. You should use strong passwords which can secure your account. Never write it down. A strong password is a random eight-character combination of numbers, letters and symbols. There are strength bars on many sites and you must keep a n eye on the strength of your password as they ensure that the fraudsters do not “hit” the write password in a couple of tries. The more attempts at a password the more chances of a red flag being raised and the fraudster being tracked.
  • Keep your credit card Safe: – When you’re out spending money on your daily activities you should see that the waiters are handling your cards properly and safely. Also make sure that you sign your credit card and that it is not easily copied. Having a credit card lying on a table even in the vicinity of your home is asking for trouble.
  • Security at the office as well as home: – Try to figure out a non-obvious location in your home where you can store your SSN, passport and all records, including credit card statements and all documents which contain personal information. A viable and safe option for extra sensitive documents is always the bank. Like silver you will require it a couple of times a year so keeping it away from home and in a world-class security vault is the safest option. Also for credit cards be careful when you hand it over to your family or friends as any mistake on their part will be disastrous to you and could make you a victim of identity theft.
  • Carry only the essentials in your wallet: - Learn to carry only those things which u need daily in your life in your wallet. Leave your personal information details at home in a secure place. Carry only those credit cards which you want to use for the day. Again it is imperative to keep it safe and make sure that what you carry is not a card that has a higher limit, unless you really want to go on a shopping spree.
  • Surrender extra credit cards: – If you aren’t regularly using a credit card, surrender it. The more cards you have you will be confused with the details of those cards. So it is advisable to carry only those cards which you know you can remember. The more cards you own will also increase the chances of one of them being stolen or compromised.

The duty and responsibility of your personal information resides with you. Hence the onus lies on you to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. If you do not take pre-cautions it will be just a matter of time before the wrong people get wind of it and then things will have gone too far. Technology is present to protect you as well as to rob you. For every protective measure you apply there are fraudsters who can crack it, so it is important to remain vigilant at all times.

Identity theft is one of the largest frauds to hit the online industry and it is usually the law abiding citizens who are made the victims of these malicious attacks. Remember only knowledge and awareness can secure you from a case of Identity theft risk.

~ Transaction Management Team

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