Identity theft can take myriad forms. Here’s how you can protect yourself.
In April 2010, a US court sentenced an Indian named Jaisanker Marimuthu to 81 months in prison. This native of Chennai would hack into brokerage accounts in the US and use them to purchase thinly-traded stocks. Once the prices of these stocks had risen, he would sell his own holdings in those stocks and pocket a neat profit.
In May 2011 and again in June, hackers broke into databases of a popular gaming company and stole millions of passwords of online gamers. In July this year, police in Sacramento, California, busted a gang that installed skimming devices at gas stations in the US. Whenever a customer swiped his card to purchase petrol, the vital details on the magnetic strip of his card would be captured by the skimming device. The gang would then use those details to create a clone of the original card and run up bills on the card owner’s accounts.
In a more benign instance, a student at a Delhi-based management school created a fake account of the Police Commissioner on a social networking site. He then used this account to offer advice to those who wrote to him. In another instance, an impostor created Nobel laureate and economist Amartya Sen’s account on Facebook which he then used to dispense political and economic views that were contrary to those held by the great man.
These are all instances of identity theft, where a criminal steals a victim’s critical information and then misuses it, either for financial gains or sometimes just for some frivolous thrill. This stolen information could include name, signature, phone numbers, address, bank account numbers, credit card details, and more.
Identity thieves could also use your personal details to commit crimes and thus create a criminal record in your name. Thus, identity theft has emerged as a major threat to an individual’s financial as well as personal security.
On the Internet, there are legions of other ways employed to steal confidential information. Criminals could use trojans (a type of malware) that drop keyloggers on your computer. Keyloggers transfer to the hacker’s system your user names, pas