We live in a democracy where information is a commodity. Out of 1.37 billion people in India, 0.44 billion people own a Permanent Account Number (PAN). However, most of us are unaware of the danger of information sharing. PAN card misuse is becoming an area of concern.
According to a report by IndiaSpend, 2018 saw the maximum number of PAN card frauds. Hackers and criminals are on a constant lookout for any information or vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Many events have come to light where such information has been used for committing fraudulent activities.
PAN Card frauds in India
- In a recent case, a 27-year-old sales executive was shocked when he received an income tax notice for payment of his taxes. He had been named Director of 13 companies and had allegedly transacted over Rs 20 crores without his knowledge. It was only after the notice that he realized that his PAN details were stolen and misused.
- In another case, a Ludhiana-based father-son duo was found using six different PAN cards to convert people’s black money into white during demonetization for a hefty commission.
- There have been other reported instances where people have used someone else’s PAN for obtaining loans, purchasing properties and jewelry, or for investing their black money.
How PAN Card can be misused?
- With government regulations like linking Aadhaar numbers with PAN cards and bank accounts, it is becoming effortless for criminals to find all relevant information in one place.
- Quoting your PAN number during tatkal railway booking is necessary. The same information is being displayed with your name on the prepared charts with traveler details that are displayed at the railway station. Anyone can access these details and use it for illegal activities. However, the government has started taking measures to prevent identity theft by displaying only the last four digits of the PAN.
- These days PAN and other details need to be shared to open bank accounts, get postpaid connections, or even for employee background verifications. In most cases, the processing is done by a third party. It is highly possible that your information will get leaked if the servers of these agencies are not secure.
- Sometimes, we furnish our personal details to travel agents for visa applications or other travel bookings and even to online travel portals while making holiday bookings. While most of these servers are relatively secure, fraudsters are continually watching for opportunities to misuse your details while you are away and do succeed in some instances.
- Social media sites are another place for leaks. While creating a profile, we give away a lot of personal details. Using some of these, it is easy for stalkers to procure your PAN details and use it for their personal benefits.
“Distrust and caution are the parents of security “– Benjamin Franklin. Safeguarding your personal details has become extremely important to avoid PAN Card scam.
How to avoid PAN card frauds?
- Use your PAN card only where compulsory. Driver’s license, voter ID, and Aadhar cards are other valid documents that are less vulnerable to fraud.
- Don’t fill details of birthdate or full names publicly or on insecure online portals. These details can be used to trace your PAN number on the Income Tax website.
- Secure the original and photocopies of your PAN card. Put the date with your signature when submitting documents. Keep track of the places where you have submitted physical photocopies of your PAN card.
- De-link your Aadhar card from your bank accounts because it is no longer mandatory.
- Form 26A of your income tax return records all the financial transactions made with your PAN. So, check your Form 26A regularly to ensure that there are no suspicious activities on your PAN card.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that his government is trying to ensure that the citizen-government interface is incorruptible through technological means. He said, “To me, a technology used wisely is a catalyst to magically transforming the way we live in.”
A Digital India with cybersecurity is paving its way towards becoming an integral part of National Security to become true soon!
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How can anyone misuse my PAN Card number?
If your essential PAN card data is leaked, then it can be misused to get a loan, credit card, or to even show fake identity proof.
How to know if my PAN Card is misused?
- Checking your credit score is the best way to do so. The statement will show all the loans taken using your PAN. You will identify the fraud if you find any loans that aren’t taken by you.
- Check out platforms like TransUnion CIBIL, Equifax, Experian, Paytm, Bank Bazaar or CRIF High Mark on the internet. You can choose whichever seems convenient for you.
- Open your website and click on “Check credit score”. It is usually free of cost. However, some websites might ask to select a plan for getting a detailed credit score.
- Enter your Date of Birth, name, email ID, registered mobile no., and PAN number. You might have to verify your mobile number with an OTP.
Is PAN Card number safe to give?
Casually giving your PAN Card number, both online and physically, invites theft. Avoid giving a PAN card as an ID proof everywhere. Pick other Identity proofs as an option.
[Originally Published: Oct 9, 2019 Last Updated: April 22, 2022]