Hack Proof Your Life – Part II – Identity Theft
I booked my train tickets to Hyderabad for the first time on Yatra.com, Was truly impressed with the way the booking works. Don’t worry, this is not one of those bad reviews. If you’ve been on Yatra before – they offer free Yatra Barclay credit card with all the bonus features on registration. The offers were acceptable though most of them applied to Delhi and Mumbai, considering that it was free for lifetime, I applied!
The sales people call back almost immediately or at the max in 24 hours right? Barclay didn’t seem to care. Normally i followup, but this time I didn’t care! Enjoyed my first 3 day trip to Hyderabad. A beautiful city that it is, Hyderabad has a lot to offer in terms of places to visit. But surely, there isn’t a better feeling than returning home 🙂 Back to routine life 🙂 Back on my feet after a wonderful Friday in Hyderabad! 🙂 One fine day the phone rings.. it’s about 6.30 PM in the evening.. Tring Tring.. Tring Tring..
It’s a girl! She has a sweet voice.. “Hello.”.. 2 sec pause.. “Hello”.. another 2 sec pause.. I wasn’t answering back wanting her to get desperate :P.. I was liking her voice, that was possibly the better voices i had heard for a while.. “Yea, Hello.. I wasn’t able to hear you clearly” I replied.. “Is this Mr. Kunal Kamdar?”.. “Yes!” (I liked the Mr part:), having been into a part-time tele-calling job i was thought not to prefix Mr. with the first name, shouldn’t she have called me Mr. Kamdar? Whatever yaar.. How does it matter? )..”This is Surabhi (name changed bcos I don’t remember her name! :P) calling from Barclay Credit Card division. You had booked a train ticket on yatra.com and were interested for a free Yatra Barclay credit card/”..Oh finally..”Umm.. yes, but that was about 10 days back!”..” We are sorry for the delayed response sir.. Are you still interested..?”..”It’s free right, I don’t want to be paying any fees..”..”It’s free for lifetime sir.. No Joining fees! Are you aware of the benefits on the card..”.. “I have read them online, But if you could just tell me some of the benefits again?”.. “Sure sir…” and here she was explaining benefits.. I was lost in her voice.. “Are you with me sir?”..”Oh yea, I’m listening..”.. and surely enough, she continued.. She had all the patience in the world I tell you..
5 minutes into the call..I say “Yes, I’m interested, what is the procedure to apply..”..”We’ll arrange for a Barclay representative to call you to collect details.. But you’ll now need to give me some details about you sir..”..”Okay, lets start..” Questions, Questions, Questions.. Even questions about my salary, my company name, my address, my email id, phone number alternate phone number , If i had another credit card etc.. I was so lost that I didn’t realize that i had given her all my details.. Even without actually having a card in my hand..
Back in my senses, recalling my part-time job(more about it later), I enquired: “If a rep was to meet me, why would you take the details on the call..” I was expecting a small pause here if she were faking.. but the girl immediately replied..”We’ll need to send these details to our managers for them to analyse if a card can be given for your profile..”..Hmm, may she was trained to do that.. may she had been answering these questions in the past.. now i had the suspicion growing..
Manager verification?.. Why would they even call me if I weren’t eligible.. She replied back saying that I’ll need to handover a copy of my pan card to the rep when he’s at my door step to fill out the forms. “I’m sorry, why would u want to confirm it with managers first?”..”It’s a standard process..”.. For the next few minutes I kept questioning her the same thing unless i got a suggestive reply, a reply that convinced me that this was genuine and my details are secure.. She continued saying ‘It is the process’ and asked me for more personal details.. I persisted, sure enough, she hanged up. That convinced me.
“May be it was their standard process..” It’s over 15 days now, no call from the sales girl and no representative out to visit me. “May be they don’t want to sell you the card!”, hmm may be. This may not have been a scam as i suspect it to be, but just a data collection activity.
I worked in one such company as a temp during my college holidays, where we made calls to people and collected data about the kind of antivirus they used, why this, why not that etc, We were to profile at least 30 people in a day to get paid. I figured that we were made to lie about a conference that was going to happen in weeks time for which we wanted the details.. Sure enough there wasn’t. I’m not saying that this company used some other company’s name to get the data, may be it was the real company that wanted to survey on how Indian’s which including corporates used the antivirus and why.. What i did was merely a data profiling activity. We had to lie, If we didn’t tell them about a free conference why would anyone want to give us details?
I think the call from this credit card division was a data profiling activity or may be it was some part of a scam. However, there is a possible scam to this. And here is how it can work: The call was made from an unidentified number. It was from Mumbai and i had it on my cell phone, what I didn’t really know was if it was really from Barclay.
A con artist could make a call to anyone claiming that he was from this reputed bank wanting to offer a free credit card, then take their details.. Data profiling is just that easy.. If a con artist wanted to take this scam further, he’d prepare some fake agreement type documents and get it signed at the victim’s premises. What he’d also take with him is a photo identity and some passport sized photographs in the name of registration process. Identity now stolen!
What can he do with it? The simplest thing he could do is, purchase a mobile sim card on the victim’s name. Sometimes these mobile operators(at least indian) do not verify the address. One of my friend was once visited by a Aircel representative asking him if he had taken a mobile number, My friend had not, so luckily he was able to cancel the card. He didn’t know how it happened.. Thankfully the mobile companies at least verify the address if you bought a post paid connection, or somebody else would use it and you would have to pay for it because legally you have signed the paper for them.
Now, Is the ban on prepaid sim cards in Jammu justified? I may be tempted to say yes, but really if the companies were to verify the address it shouldn’t be a problem. Mobile prepaid sim cards should only be issued to people with permanent residents (more than 5 years in the registered address) or offer sim cards to people without a permanent residency only after an NOC from a police station, therefore ensuring the records were correct and were not being misused.
If I were in a country like US, The con could take a loan on the person’s name! Now that’s even more scary..This is how it worked in US.. people were lent money without a verification.. Have you seen the movie – The NET? Many might not agree of it being real, but if you were to only depend on numbers to identify you, your identity is at serious risk. Thankfully India has no such system yet.
Identity theft is a serious issue. On one particular episode of the Real Hustle, the scam artists search the garbage bag of a big corporate house and not to his surprise he found 7 copies of identity cards with their social security numbers on it. The next step was to get a credit card made on the victim’s name.. It was easy, the con artist played as his friend and bought the card with a fake document entitling him to receive the card on his behalf.
In other cases, the con artist bought a loan and submitted the verifier’s document with victim’s identity proof. The loan was approved and the con artists cashed in on the money. The verification call only followed after a month, and surely the victim was called who had no idea who this guy was, and now legally he was to pay up for the loan taken. Thankfully it was only on the show, the con artists returned the money and used the footage to show us how serious is identity theft.
Almost every garbage bag these guys turned, they found something useful showing us how serious this could be. Always shred or tear paper you throw off.. Ensure there is no way that it can be misused. Even courier covers with your names and addresses on it. Shred them properly before you throw them off.
If you suspect anything about a sales call, hang up! Only give out personal information to the reps who come to visit you. If u suspect anything, ensure that you see enough evidence that they are the real people. Call up their call centre if required. Identify the real number of their branch and find out. If you see anything suspective do not sign or hand over any proof. If their branch is closer to your house, visit them. It may not be a big issue with Identity theft in India because the only serious thing that these guys can do is buy a sim card. I cannot think of anything else they could do with your identity and without verification. If only it was a call that wants your details, it’s just going to be one more “Buy 2 sauna belts for the price of 1, plus get Rs.500 worth assured gift free. Call XX for more details” spam message.