What is identity theft, how you can prevent it – ET CISO
Ashish’s Aadhaar and PAN details are the master keys to his personal data. He must guard these carefully. When he is asked for these sensitive details, he must find out why they are needed and how they will be protected. Any scanned or photo copies must clearly state the purpose for which the details are being shared. Any paperwork containing these details must be securely stored or shredded if not required.
Ashish must realise that scammers generally make unsuspecting calls that appear to come from government entities, businesses, banks and financial institutions to establish credibility. Sometimes, emails that appear to be legitimate may be attempts to steal his information. He must always initiate a callback or return email, from a known entity such as the official website, rather than responding to such sensitive information over a random call or email. More importantly, he should be wary of attachments — many contain malware. He must watch his mailbox as stolen and misplaced mail is one of the easiest paths to a stolen identity. Any credit card, bank or investment statements that someone could fish out of the garbage shouldn’t be there. It must be shredded along with any junk mail, especially pre-approved offers of credit.
Ashish must use a password manager to create and store complex, unique passwords for his accounts and refrain from reusing passwords. Additionally, he should be mindful about his social media posts, such that he doesn’t give away key data or clues about his likely security questions meant for retrieval of passwords and other personal details. Many financial institutions text or email when transactions are made on investment, insurance and deposit accounts. He must sign up for the same so that he can track all his transactions. While paying online or in a store, he must use a digital wallet, an app containing secure, digital versions of credit and debit cards. He must use a banking app rather than a mobile browser for banking. Transactions are tokenised and encrypted, which makes them safer. His electronic devices, including mobile must be password protected. He must get into a habit of checking his credit reports regularly and monitoring his financial statements.
Scammers take advantage of any opportunity they can. The first step in protecting himself from identity theft is learning how it occurs. Ashish can start taking steps to limit his exposure. There’s no way to prevent identity theft entirely, but he can make it harder for criminals to gain access to his information and accounts.
(Content on this page is courtesy Centre for Investment Education and Learning (CIEL). Contributions by Girija Gadre, Arti Bhargava and Labdhi Mehta.)