Identity theft is on the rise, and a large number of people fall victim to this crime year after year. In fact, if recent trends are anything to go by, they are downright alarming – the instances of identity theft have gone up by as much as 2400 percent (yes, you read that right!) over the last decade, as per a report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
What is identity theft?
When a person steals another person’s identity by wrongly obtaining their identity and address proof, it is said to be a case of identity theft. Typically, the person who has stolen the identity uses this information to make financial transactions in the person’s name, such as obtaining a loan or availing of a credit card.
Why should you protect your online identity?
While one may not even realise initially that their identity has been stolen, the details of every loan and credit card always show up on the credit information report. If the person who has fraudulently availed of the loan then defaults on a loan repayment or credit card payment, the onus is on the person whose identity has been stolen, to repay the same. This is because to a lender, the information provided at the time of availing the credit facility was that of the victim, and hence that person is liable.
What also happens with any credit facility is that the details are automatically sent on by lenders to credit bureaus, who then update credit reports accordingly, and hence if the loan or credit card account is not serviced well by the ‘identity thief’, then the victim is also at risk of having their credit score take a nosedive, for no fault of theirs. Why does this happen? This is on account of the fact that every skipped or missed payment is tracked by the lenders, and accordingly also reflects in the report, which drastically brings down the score. Also, your name is likely to appear on a CIBIL defaulters list, which is maintained by lenders to track those customers who have defaulted in the past.
Remember that your credit score is very important in today’s times, as it is virtually a passport to good credit health. What a good score offers you is access to loans at the most competitive rate of interest and the best deals on credit cards as well. If your score is high, chances that your loan application going through is also higher. Conversely, a lower score reduces your chances of loan or credit card approval, and even if it does get sanctioned, it is likely to be not at the most favourable terms. Hence maintaining a good credit score becomes almost mandatory. The only way to do is to be judicious when it comes to credit card usage, and to pay all your bills on time. In case you have outstanding loans, make sure there are no delayed or skipped EMI payments.
What can you do to protect your online identity?
Firstly never disclose your personal information to anyone, even if the person claims to be calling from your bank or credit card issuer. Know that a bank or any other financial institution will never demand for your information on the phone, via email or SMS. If you suspect some fraudulent activity contact your bank immediately for clarification.
Similarly, remember that if someone asks you for your PIN details on your credit or debit card, it has to be someone looking to misuse the information, and even make withdrawals from your bank account or card using these details. Hence this type of activity also needs to be reported to the bank immediately.
When it comes to your credit report, there is no other way to keep track of what information is in it, but for requesting for a copy from any of the credit bureaus (CIBIL, Equifax, Experian and CRIF High Mark) at regular intervals. This will ensure that you are aware of all the information mentioned therein, and should you find any data pertaining to accounts not held by you, bring them to the notice of the bureau at once. It is likely that you are either a victim of identity theft, or just that the data is erroneously reported – in either case, it can impact you negatively and hence needs to be taken care of at the earliest. Hence, know how to remove your name from CIBIL, and protect your online identity.
Having established the need to protect your online identity, as a credit responsible individual do make it a point to keep track of all your banking and financial information and ensure that not only is it up to date, but also that it is accurate and no incorrect details are captured therein.
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