How to detect and escape identity theft

Using your sensitive information such as health data can allow criminals to claim your health insurance or bad actors to exploit the data.
Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes.

CHENNAI: At least once, all of us would have received messages from our friends and relatives warning about fake social media accounts created in their names and the scammers seeking money pretending to be people you know. We may have also noted with shock how these impersonators are stealing identities and creating Facebook, Messenger or Instagram accounts. Many of us are well aware of such frauds and know how to steer clear of them, but not everyone is capable of escaping deception.

As we live in the digital age, there is always the threat of our personal information falling into the wrong hands. Reports by cybersecurity organizations show an increase in incidents of identity theft in the country. How do we deal with this?

Identity theft

Cyber criminals use others’ passwords of bank and social accounts, credit card details, health data, Aadhaar card, PAN card, driving licence and other such personal information for a variety of illegal activities. Attackers may use this data for stealing money, ordering goods online, buying a SIM card in your name and thereby escaping from criminal activity.

Using your sensitive information such as health data can allow criminals to claim your health insurance or bad actors to exploit the data. Children’s personal information could also be stolen.

Thieves may either directly use the victim’s personal identifiable information or sell that on the dark web. It leads to financial loss, action from police or reputation damage.

Personal identifiable information is critical and has implications for threats in the future, says Ritesh Chopra, director of sales in India region at Norton, a cybersecurity firm. He added that the threat landscape has changed dramatically in recent years and a simple antivirus is not enough. “We need have a combination of awareness, VPN, safe browsing and technological offerings,” he said.

How can you be safe?

The good old trick of not clicking on unknown or suspicious links received through mail, SMS or WhatsApp; ignore malicious pop-ups.

Some of important precautionary measures you can take are

  • Go to the browser privacy settings and disable third-party web crawlers that track you across websites; try using privacy-centric browsers, and use ad-blocking extensions

  • Download apps only from official gateways like PlayStore or App Store or from trustable sources

  • Limit the ‘permissions’ for apps; allow only necessary data for the app to function; avoid suspicious or malicious apps

  • Read the user terms before logging into a new website; check what kind of data they collect

  • Many social media apps have privacy features buried deep inside the settings, tap them

  • Use two-factor authentication for important financial accounts. Already, banks and financial services provide OTP and other authentications. Ensure you turn on these even when it is optional

  • Use secure networks. If you want additional security, try using VPN; Try using cybersecurity applications for mobile.

  • Don’t share children’s or senior citizens’ identifiable information

  • Don’t fall for too-good-to-be-true offers online. These are always scams masquerading as offers

Even with precautions, sometimes it is possible to fall prey to identity thefts. Here are some red flags

  • Message/ mails/ calls about your credit/ debit card transaction which you didn’t make

  • When you stop receiving mails in your inbox or rejection of loan applications

In case you are a victim to identity theft, you can file a complaint at or call the helpline no.1930

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The New Indian Express