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Seven Gold Coins A Plane Ticket And Two Paper Shredders

Feb 6th 2013 at 5:39 AM

A Recent Identity Theft in Mumbai

The title of my post sounds like the name of a Hollywood film doesnt it? I meant it to be that way. By the time you reach the end of the article you will know! An identity theft case in Mumbai caught my attention in the morning papers today. Officers from the swanky BKC Police Department (if you compare the BKC station to the others in Mumbai you will know why I used the word swank!) arrested a 35 yr old man for using a credit card issued in the name of a Pooja Joshi and ran up a bill of Rs. 4.8 lakh in less than a month.

This is how the con worked. Karan Kapoor who does not have a record got the bright idea when he received a telemarketing call from a bank which looks like it was already approved by the credit agency. Now it so happens that in our age of mobile phones, thousands of numbers are activated and deactivated on a daily basis. Some of the deactivated numbers are not disused by the cellular operator and is in fact passed on to new customers. I know this for a fact. Some of the new mobile phone numbers that I have activated in the recent past have seen umpteen callers call up thinking that it is the erstwhile person. So it happened that the telecallers assumed that the number now with Kapoor was Pooja Joshi’s number! Karan Kapoor simply had to agree with the telecaller that it was indeed Pooja Joshi’s number and that she was in the loo and could you please send me that credit card!

Fraud Investigation Agency Mumbai

Now after their approval checks are done, the credit card issuing agency will normally dispatch the card to the recipient’s address but this is where Karan Kapoor stepped in. The newspaper report states that Karan Kapoor simply picked up the card from the dispatch section of the courier company that had failed to find anyone on the address of Pooja Joshi. The courier company might have called Karan Kapoor who told them that he will pick up the card himself pronto! If anyone should be jailed it is the person from the courier company who was foolish enough to hand the credit card to a man named Karan Kapoor when the addressee’ s name would have read ‘Pooja Joshi’!

Once the card was in his hand, Mr. Kapoor went on a shopping spree buying air tickets online and seven gold coins of 10 gms each! The seven gold coins angle beats me though!

Pooja Joshi of course was unaware all along that her card was being misused and learnt of the identity theft case when the bank finally called her on her office landline phone and demanded the payment due on her card. You can bet that on that particular day after the call from the bank, she wasn’t very productive at work! The bank officials soon realised that it was their fault: They did not update Pooja’s new mobile number in their system – a number that she had discontinued way back in 2006 during which time the bank increased her credit limit to 5 lakhs of rupees and thus giving Mr. Kapoor a windfall!

Stealing Credit Card Information Is Big Business

Whats the fastest growing crime worldwide? Take a guess: As much as you would like to believe that it is Rape, Murder, Burglary and the likes, let me assure you that these crimes were indeed high up the list in medieval times. In today’s times it is Identity Theft and identity theft cases like the one above are these days becoming all too common. Let us define Identity Theft.

Identity theft happens when someone (the identity thief) uses another person’s personal information (such as name, phone number, and date of birth) to fraudulently obtain credit cards or loans, open a checking account, or otherwise gain access to money or goods in the other person’s name.

Identity theft takes two primary forms: financial and criminal. Financial identity theft includes activities such as credit card fraud, tax and mail fraud, passing bad cheques, and so on. Of course, the identity thief’s objective is to not pay back any of the borrowed money but, instead, to enjoy spending it. Criminal identity theft expands on the crime by using financial identity theft to support criminal activities up to and including terrorism.

As recently as 1998, the U.S. Congress recognized the growth of identity theft and passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, making identity theft a crime. In September 2003, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the results of an impact survey that outlined the scope of the crime. India is yet to pass a similar act though it is high time that some action is taken by the lawmakers to curb this growing crime.

Over 50 million Americans have been the victims of identity theft in the last ten years.  The total cost of this crime to financial institutions in the United States is over $ 100 billion. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the world today.

Some other interesting stats that people find surprising are:

  • In more than 25 percent of all cases, the victim knows the thief.
  • In 35 percent of those cases, the thief is a family member or relative.
  • Almost 50 percent of victims don’t know how their information was stolen.

So who exactly are the people who fall victim to identity thieves? Read the next sections to find out the who and how of identity theft.

Who is Affected by Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone who has credit, bank accounts, pan cards, a date of birth (DOB), or other personal identification information. That is, almost every man, woman, or child is a potential target. Yes, even children are susceptible to identity theft. Identity thieves don’t care about age; they just want personal information they can use to obtain credit.

The sad part is that you can be a victim and not know right away. For example, you may find out you’re a victim only when you go to buy a car and get turned down for credit because your credit report already shows three cars — and you’re not driving any of them! If you catch it early, however, you can minimize the amount of time and money necessary to clear your name.

Anyone, even a celebrity, can become a victim of identity theft. In countries like the US, Tiger Woods, Robert De Niro, and Oprah Winfrey have all been victims of identity theft. No one is immune, and straightening out the resulting mess can take years. But you can protect yourself by practicing identity theft prevention and looking for the telltale signs in your financial information.

How Identity Theft Happens

Unfortunately, it can be fairly simple for identity thieves to obtain other people’s personal information and ply their trade. For example, suppose that you lose (or someone steals) your wallet. In your wallet are your driver’s license (with your name, address, and DOB), multiple credit cards (department store loyalty cards, and at least one major credit card), ATM debit cards (if you’re forgetful, you may also have chits of paper in your wallet with PIN numbers written down), mediclaim cards and pan cards. Some people even carry blank cheques in their wallet. Get the picture? All the information an identity thief needs is right there in one place.

Be Careful Of What You Give Away To The Raddiwala

Identity thieves can also obtain your personal information by going through the raddiwala’s wares. Yes, these thieves will scrounge information such as cancelled checks, bank statements, utility bill statements, credit card receipts, and those pre-approved credit card offers you have been discarding.

Remember this advice: “If you don’t shred, it isn’t dead.” The non-shredded personal information you’ve tossed in the trash becomes fair game, and the identity thief thanks you for being so thoughtful.

Although identity thieves have many ways — some rather high-tech and sophisticated — to obtain your personal information, wallets and raddiwalas are the most common targets. In the case of Karan Kapoor he just got lucky because his new phone number happened to be the ex-number of another well-heeled executive. He did not actively seek to commit the fraud. But there are smarter thieves out there who are pros at the game and do not get caught after committing the crime because they are software and IT experts and are smart enough to hide the trail that leads back to them. The point is that after a seasoned thief has your personal information, he or she can assume your identity (at least financially) and start making purchases, getting cash or loans, and otherwise using your good credit.

Knowing What Information Is Vulnerable

As a top private intelligence agency in Mumbai, we have been called upon to investigate and track many identity theft and credit card recovery cases in Mumbai and beyond. From my experience let me give you an insight about your most vulnerable information which you must keep safe at all times. We live in a numbers society: phone numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN), driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, date of birth (DOB), Pan numbers, bank account numbers . . . you get the idea. Also, employee and medical record numbers and other tidbits of information are used to identify us as persons today, and that fact gives meaning to the term personal identification information, because all these numbers are like keys to your identity on the phone, online, or in writing.

The vulnerable personal information that identity thieves use is as follows: 

Pan number:

This is, of course, the major one compliments of the government that everyone needs to get a job, pay taxes, and apply for credit. The Pan card number like the social security number in the US is like the key to the kingdom — your financial kingdom, that is. The identity thief uses your Pan Card number to apply for credit, file false tax returns, get a job, open bank accounts, and so on.

Date of birth (DOB):

A DOB is a piece of the personal information puzzle, but if an identity thief has this piece by itself, it’s not a problem. When the thief uses your DOB in conjunction with your Pan Number, he or she can become you. Mother’s maiden name: This name is used to verify your identity when accessing financial information. Identity thieves use your mother’s maiden name to verify their identity as being yours in order to access your financial records and open new accounts in your name.

Personal identification numbers (PINs):

Usually a five or more digit number used to access your bank accounts when using your ATM card.

Passwords:

Your passwords are the keys to any information stored electronically. When the identity thief has your password, he or she has access to the information you are trying to protect and uses the passwords to access the information, such as bank accounts, online bill paying services, and so on.

Driver’s license number:

The number used to identify you is printed on your license. When the identity thief has your driver’s license number, he or she can have a phony license made that shows your name and driver’s license number with the thief’s picture.

By using your personal information, identity thieves can party on your hard earned name and good credit reputation. They spend like there’s no tomorrow because they know that someone else (you) is picking up the tab. Identity thieves can use your personal information to open accounts, such as a cellular phone account, in your name. Of course, they don’t pay the bills and continue to use the phone until you discover the theft and once the heat is on, they drop that account and move on to another unsuspecting victim. Karan Kapoor got caught but remember seasoned identity thieves are too smart to get caught.

Stay tuned to our blog for more articles in the future on how to protect yourself from identity theft. If you would like to receive my articles directly in your email inbox please enter your email id in the top right hand ‘email subscribe’ box so that you are immediately notified of new articles from my blog as soon as they are published.

And go and buy two paper shredders immediately from the local stationary shop – one for your home and one for your office. Make it a habit from today onwards to shred all bank statements, old cheques and any other financial hard copies and correspondence that includes your personal details. Make it a lifelong habit with yourself and your family members and you will thank me someday when someone you know closely has become a victim of identity theft while you havent!

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 Real Estate & Vendor / Supplier due diligence among others. Co-founder of Alliance One Private Intelligence – which is the best credit card fraud investigation agency in Mumbai, Amit is a respected name in the Indian Private Intelligence Business having successfully completed corporate investigation 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.

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