In today's times everyone faces the risk of a break-in. It is nearly impossible to shield one’s private information from identity bandits. Cases of identity theft are rising unrestrained and are affecting more and more number of people every year. Does that mean we must just accept their presence and reel under a cover of fear waiting for an incident to happen to us? No. Identity theft is a serious offence and there are some simple ways by which you can protect yourself.
How Does One Steal My Identity?
Identity thieves use your bank account information and credit card details for their own benefit. All your important documents such as your PAN card, passport, debit and credit cards, driver’s license etc. are at a risk of being stolen or duplicated. An impostor who intends to commit fraud will always look for gullible unsuspecting victims to assume their identity. Result: You could be implicated in a false criminal case, legal matters or be left to pay for what you did not authorise.
- A con person would look for information in your trash such as your old credit card statements, bank statements, photocopies of important documents etc.
- Often people lose their identity when their purses are stolen or lost.
- Identity raiders often target people using public computers to hack into private information through their emails which can be an important source of vital financial information.
How Do I Find Out If My Identity Is Stolen?
One of the most effective ways to stay on top of matters is to regularly view your credit report. If you spot any untoward information that you do not identify then it could be coming from a fraudster. You must immediately raise a CIBIL dispute and bring it to the authorities notice. Often such thieves change address on applications so that you are not forewarned of their misdoings. So, accounts you don’t recognise or hard inquiries that are eating into your score must be disputed.
This way you will not only be able to nab the robbers but also help your score to escalate. People tend to wake up only when their personal loan or credit card application is declined due to an unexpectedly low score. Don’t wait for an incident to ring the bells.
What Can I Do To Protect My Identity?
Identity thieves cause financial loss and great agony to their victims. No one wants to have their privacy compromised. In order to save yourself from being tricked, observe the following:
- Shred documents: Buy or borrow a shredder or tear important documents to bits carefully. Since thieves prey on information given in private financial statements rubbished by you, it is important to be mindful of how you dispose them. Put them in a recycling bin only after you have torn your name, address, credit card number, bank account number etc from the paper. It is in your own interest.
Avoid leaving a paper trail. Never leave your ATM slips, petrol pump slips, etc behind. Or tear them into pieces before throwing them in the bin.
- Change passwords regularly: This is one habit which must become a part of your routine.
Get creative with your passwords, use combination passwords, don’t keep ones that are
easy to guess and don’t be repetitive. For example, having 123456 or 654321, name@123
etc are some passwords you must strictly avoid.
- Card protection plans: Invest in card protection plans. They are especially designed to safeguard debit cards, credit cards and other important documents in case of loss.
- Ensure you are dealing with authorised personnel only: Avoiding falling in the trap of phishing mails. Never save passwords on public computers, don’t open emails you do not recognise, don’t freely share your details with strangers or on online platforms. Don’t be tempted with deals that sound “too good”.
- Defend your personal information: It is your right to refuse to share personal information. Be cautious when someone asks for sensitive private information. Ask bank staff for legitimate id proofs, if they call be sure you understand the company name, the reason for their call, offer to pay in cheque instead of sharing personal data over phone.
- Don’t be careless with your documents: Always keep your documents in a safe locker from where you can easily access them but others cannot. When travelling with them, keep them close to you and don’t leave them behind carelessly. Always keep an eye on your cards when making payments. If in doubt that your card has been skimmed then immediately report it to the bank and ask to freeze the card.
- Monitor credit reports and card statements regularly: Identity theft can severely impact your credit health. You can request a free CIBIL report to regularly review the activity reported on your accounts starting Jan next year.
Make sure you recognise all items on your card statements like date of purchase, merchant name and amount. If things seem to go awry, don’t hesitate to raise an alarm; alert your bank immediately.
What Do I Do When Someone Steals My Identity?
If you have just realised that your identity has been compromised then you must act immediately:
- Firstly, freeze your bank accounts and credit cards by calling up the customer service.
- Secondly, report the theft by taking appropriate steps such as lodging an FIR, raising dispute on items that were purchased without your knowledge using your credit card and also raise disputes on your credit report.
Prevention is the best cure. You can safeguard yourself and your credit health by being alert at all times. Act today to avoid a mishap tomorrow.