A Permanent Account Number, or PAN, as we all know, is an important Government document necessary to open bank accounts, file taxes, and more. However, the ten-digit alphanumeric identification number has been wrongfully used to plan a fraud. In the past, your PAN number was available only to employers. With new government rules that mandate PAN cards to be linked with Aadhar and bank accounts, it has become easy for fraudsters to use the PAN card number to commit fraud. As several websites need PAN card information, it has become easy for scammers to get the number and commit crimes.
PAN card fraud is when scammers use the number of an individual to take out a loan, rent a hotel room, or purchase jewellery, thereby affecting the individual’s credit score. As most individuals do not check their credit score unless there is a need for a loan, these frauds can go unnoticed for long periods.
Examples of PAN Card fraud
Everyone irrespective of their social status can be subject to PAN card fraud. A famous Bollywood actor was a victim of PAN card fraud when his ID was used to take out a loan of Rs.2500. He tagged CIBIL on a social media platform to notify them of the scam, which later went viral. While this is one incident, there have been several others who were affected by PAN card fraud.
In August 2022, a woman from Mumbai was duped of Rs. 1.24 lakhs when she received a fraudulent link on her mobile phone asking to update her PAN card. When she clicked on the link, fraudsters downloaded a screen-sharing app to gain remote access to her phone and confidential information.
How to check PAN Card fraud
Unlike other financial frauds, PAN card fraud is not immediately known. For instance, in the case of UPI fraud, money is deducted from the bank account. With the help of a bank alert, customers can know they have fallen victim to an online scam. In the case of PAN card fraud, it affects the credit score. If someone took a loan with your PAN card, that affects your overall credit score. Consequently, you will be subject to a higher interest rate when you approach a bank to get a loan. The damage is already done when you unearth the reason for poor credit score.
Here are two simple options to check if your PAN number is used to commit fraud.
Option 1 – Checking Credit Score
Various bureaus like CIBIL, Experian, Equifax, or CRIF High Mark can be used to check your credit score. These websites can be used to check credit scores at any time, free of cost. However, if you want a detailed score and breakdown of all the details, you can subscribe to their premium membership. Create an account with your basic information to get your current credit score and to check if anything suspicious is happening.
Option 2 – Form 26A
Form 26A is an annual tax statement issued by the income tax department. It contains all the information about tax deducted at source (TDS), taxes you paid, refunds received, and other tax-related information. Since this is based on your PAN, it also contains information about high-value financial transactions, including corporate bonds or mutual funds purchases. With this form, you can also verify if the PAN number has been used by anyone else. The form can be downloaded from the TRACES website or via the net banking service of your bank.
How to report PAN Card fraud
Using TIN NSDL
You can use NSDL website to file your complaint. Here is how you do it.
- Step 1: Visit the official portal of TIN NSDL and select ‘Customer Care’ from the menu options
- Step 2: Click on “Complaints/Queries” from the drop-down list. It will open a complaint form.
- Step 3: Fill out this complaint form with all the relevant details and click “Submit.”
Ways to prevent PAN Card fraud
Here are a few simple ways to be vigilant and protect yourself from PAN card fraud.
- Use your PAN card only where it is mandatory. Instead, use driver’s licenses or voter ID.
- To make yourself less prone to fraud, do not fill in personal details such as birthdate or full name on unknown online portals, as they can be leveraged to track the PAN card number.
- If you must take photocopies of your PAN card, ensure no extra copies are taken or left behind at the centre. Also, it is important to sign and date all copies to ensure it is not misused.
- Check your financial history for the year with Form 26A. This form holds all the transactions performed using your PAN number. If there are any discrepancies, they can be easily verified.
- Check your Credit score using the CIBIL website from time to time to ensure no credit card or loans that are open under your name that you are not aware of.
- Delete PAN card details from your phone.
While digital India continues to rise, scammers find new ways to commit crimes. PAN card frauds are one of the variants of their schemes that need close monitoring. Like any other fraud, being vigilant and informed can benefit to a large extent.