With identity theft on the rise in Mumbai, one cannot but help read about daily cases of hapless men and women whose credit cards have been swiped at various locations around the world and then the hearing about the travails of them running from pillar to post and back trying to reimburse the money and sort out the mess that they suddenly find themselves in one fine morning. Like I have mentioned in previous articles in my ‘Identity Theft’ section of the blog, keeping your personal information safe is paramount in today’s world to ensure that you do not become a victim of identity theft. In this article, I tell you about the ways to keep your personal information safe. When you understand the vulnerabilities with your mail and online accounts for bill paying and banking, you will be able to prevent them from falling into the hands of the identity thief and to ensure that you do not wake up one fine morning in your suburban Malad flat with a few SMS’s from your bank announcing that your credit card was swiped for thousands of dollars in the New York’s Manhattan area in designer stores and boutiques!
Discovering Where Your Personal Information Hides
Your personal information can be found in more locations than you probably realize. Below I have outlined some of the locations your personal information is located. This is not all-inclusive, but it gives you a pretty good idea of where personal information is commonly stored.
Details of your address can be commonly found in your Driver’s license, your mail, your personal cheques, your employer’s personnel records, medical records, auto registration, government records, business records, utility bills, mortgage information, and credit applications.
Your name can be found in Credit card receipts, your mail, Pan Card, driver’s license, online accounts, your employer’s personnel records, medical records, auto registration, Government records, business records, utility bills, public records, and credit applications.
Your date of birth can be found in your Driver’s license, online sites such as any birthday.com, government records, and credit applications
Your Pan Card Number can be found in government records, your employer’s personnel records, your driver’s license number (in some countries), credit applications, student ID numbers (at some universities), and medical records.
Your bank account details can be found on your cheques, account statements, business records, and credit applications.
Your credit card details can be found in Credit card receipts in some businesses, account statements, online pay services, business records, and credit applications.
The Important Information on the Documents you Receive
You receive various documents every day. Some are sent by mail, some are handed to you, and others arrive by e-mail. Many of these documents contain information that is useful to an identity thief.
Awareness is your first line of defense against identity theft. Being organized and keeping track of the statements and reports you receive is important if you are to protect yourself against identity theft.
Consider the following:
Credit card statements: Your credit card statements have your name, the credit card company’s name and phone number, your address, account number, credit limit, and expiration date printed on it. Using just the information printed on the statement, an identity thief can purchase items online or on the phone. The thief can also request a change of address and have the bills come directly to them, although most banks confirm a change of address with a follow-up telephone call or letter. Your credit card statements list all your purchases and payments for the last month’s billing period. By checking your statements regularly, you can determine whether someone else is making charges on your card.
Bank statements: Bank statements have the account numbers and balances, your name and address, and t e name of your bank. Some banks even print your pan card number on your checking account statement which is a double whammy for an identity theft! The bank account statement has information about your account activity and, if you choose, all the canceled checks that have been paid by the bank in your name are enclosed with the statement. Use your bank statement as a tool in detecting identity theft. Review the account monthly so that you know immediately if there are withdrawals you did not make.
Paycheque stubs: Paycheck stubs for direct deposit in your local bank have personal information on them, including your name, address, rate of pay, and your employer’s name. Shred the stubs after you check your bank account statement to make sure that the right amount of the deposit has been recorded.
Investment statements: Your Investment statements have a great deal of information, including your name, address, account number, balance, and the name of the company that is managing the account. You should keep the first statement after you opened the account, and then keep two to three years of current statements and shred the rest. The reason to keep the current year’s statement is to check that your money is not leaving the account without your approval or knowledge. Do not just throw your investment statements away — they contain too much personal information.
Income Tax information: These are the most vulnerable tax documents, because they have the most information. They have your name, your address, your employer’s name and address, your pay for the year, and your Pan Card Number. Tax information is useful to identity thieves because the form has your and your spouse’s Pan Card Number, your home address, place of employment, pay rate, and so on — all of which can be used to assume your identity. Keep copies of your tax returns for at least five years in a locked file cabinet or safe. This helps minimize theft.
In addition to statements, most folks receive the following documents by mail:
- Pre-approved credit card offers
- Driver’s license renewal forms
- Utility bills
- Direct deposit pay check stubs
- Blank checks for your personal checking account
These documents have personal information, and they come in the mail — which is vulnerable.
Follow the above guidelines and you will not have to worry in the future about proving to the Bank Authorities in Malad that you have never purchased a designer T shirt in your life let alone buying designer nighties and lingerie at Saks Fifth Avenue New York!
Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One Detectives – which is the best credit card fraud investigation agency in Mumbai. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations