We are all part of digital movement that is happening in our country to transform India into a digitally empowered society. In this digital world we need to ensure that every citizen is safe and his/her interest including the interest of the family are secure in all respects. In the cyber space every individual comes across different technologies that makes accessing various sources and facilities easy has led to increasing threats of Cybercrimes. Not only that, we all are in the race to make a mark in the digital social world where online communication, Instant messaging, Social networking, etc. with all its positive and negative ramification has become an integral part of our life. There are several vulnerabilities in this cyber space. The cyber criminals explore the cyber world better than us and exploit these vulnerabilities to their advantage, and use them against innocent citizens causing damages/loss or even destroying the family. You may have heard about many types of cybercrimes like, email scams and Phishing, Malware attacks, Identity theft, Cyber-bullying, Pornography, Pharming, Online frauds or scams, ATM frauds, hacking etc. we areunaware or being careless about the risks involved in these technologies which we use on continuous basis. What best can we do to protect ourselves and our family from the pit falls of cyber world?

Every device/ technology you come across, which makes your life easier and happier can put your digital identity at danger. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing problem which is effecting millions in India as well as in the world which requires immediate attention. In this scenario it is essential that every individual is fully aware of various aspects of Identity theft. This makes it imperative that to know what you mean by your identity and what is identity theft and various ways/methods to protect one’s identity?

Identity answers to the question who you are? In general context, it can be your social identifying information or employment details and digital social identifying characteristics in the world. Personal Identifying information includes, Name, Phone Number, Email-ID, Date of birth, Address, Identity card number, Permanent account number, Aadhaar card number, Voter ID, Credit/Debit card details, Medicare Number, Passport details, Travel details, Iris scan, Fingerprints, Voice sample etc. In simple words identity theft can be termed as

“identity theft is using another person’s personal identifying information like name address etc., as well as financial information like credit/debit card details in order to make purchases or borrow money, open a new account or commit a crime without that person’s permission”

Identity theft can happen to anyone at any point of time. It can take many forms and shapes. It can cause a potential damage to your social identity and loss of your hard earned money. We are always cautious to protect ourselves and our family in the physical world. In the same way, since we all are aware that the cyber world is as good as physical world with similar risks existing, we should take extra steps to protect ourselves and our family as well as our valuables which we have earned. Your identity is your responsibility. With respect to the current state of cyber world where we cannot put a stop to this problem, it is always better to protect ourselves from these crimes.

In the succeeding section, (i) How identity theft occurs and (ii) The best ways to protect and prevent your identity from being misused by cyber criminals, are presented. An insight into what has to be done and whom to contact if you find your identity is stolen, different case studies for better understanding on how identity thieves operate? and how to protect ourselves is also presented. Let us together take the first step of being aware of what can happen in the digital world; and to safeguard ourselves and our family.

How Identity theft can happen?

We know that identity thieves can misuse our identity for fraud activities. We put across different ways the theft can happen, how cyber criminals exploit the different vulnerabilities to steal individual’s identity.

  • We come across survey forms given in restaurants and lucky draw coupons at shopping malls/movie theaters requesting personal information. Generally, this information is sold to other parties for money. We may carelessly speak in public places with our friends and family. People may be watching us from nearby location, and listening to our conversation. If you give out personal information over the telephone, the potential thieves overhear your conversation and may use for fraud activities.
  • We often get calls regarding products and we may wonder how they get our phone number. Many organizations sell these phone numbers to consultants for money. For example, after shopping at super markets and medical stores and retail chains in malls, these outlets insist on giving our phone number, saying that it is for add-on points which can be used for the next purchase. This can be misused leading to identity theft.
  • Very often we receive mails/ messages promising some benefit in the form of cash prize/ lottery/job offers through email/WhatsApp/SMS. They send mails with logos similar to the original websites making them feel like authorized one. They may ask us to click on a link which redirects to another page, where we are asked to give our personal sensitive information like banking details. We get excited by the offer we received and may click on the link.This may result in loss of money, if you reveal your banking information through such links.
  • Criminals may access your private information from online shopping portals, e-commerce sites and online bank accounts and use that information against you or for self-benefit. Identity thief casually go through different profiles in social media through a fake account. From the profiles they select a few gullible targets for attacking. They send ‘friend’ request to initiate a relationship and try to gain trust through chatting. After gaining trust they get hold of sensitive personal information from the potential targets. Identity thieves also gets information about an individual through government registers or public records which are improperly handled.
  • Criminals try to retrieve information from computer servers that is not secured or monitored properly. They may access routers, through ports which are configured improperly or opened unknowingly, or have weak password which are vulnerable to identity thefts.
  • Stealing of personal information can happen through malware. Malware can be sent through mail/SMS/WhatsApp link. Malwares can be in different forms like Viruses, Spyware, Rootkits, Remote Access Tools.
  • Personal information from smart credit/debit and other smart payment cards (like shopping, gift cards etc.)can be read though RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) device without even physical contact with the card.
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