The Permanent Account Number (PAN) is a method of identifying different taxpayers in the country. PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric identification number (containing both alphabets and numbers) assigned to Indians, primarily those who pay taxes. The PAN identification system is a computer-based system that assigns a unique identification number to each Indian tax-paying entity.

All tax-related information for a person is recorded using this method against a single PAN number, which serves as the primary key for information storage. Because this is shared throughout the country, no two people on tax-paying entities can have PAN.

Can anyone misuse my PAN card details?

We live in a democracy in which information is considered a commodity. A Permanent Account Number is held by 0.44 billion people in India, out of a population of 1.37 billion (PAN). However, most of us are unaware of the dangers of information sharing. Identity theft is becoming a source of concern and anxiety.
According to a report, 2021 saw the highest number of PAN card and Aadhar card frauds. Criminals and hackers are constantly on the lookout for any information or vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Many incidents have come to light where such information was used to commit fraud.

  • A 27-year-old sales executive was taken aback when he received an income tax notice requiring him to pay his taxes in a recent case. He was named Director of 13 companies and was accused of transacting over Rs 20 crores without his knowledge. It wasn’t until he received the notice that he realized his PAN number had been stolen and misused.
  • In another case, a father-son duo from Ludhiana was caught using six different PAN cards to convert people’s black money into white money for a hefty commission during demonetization.
  • Other reported incidents include people using someone else’s PAN to obtain loans, purchase properties and jewelry, or invest their black money.

There are numerous sources where your details can be stolen.

  • With government regulations such as linking Aadhaar numbers to PAN cards and bank accounts, criminals find it easier to find all relevant information in one place.
  • When making a tatkal railway booking, you must provide your PAN number. The same information is displayed on the prepared charts with traveler details at the railway station with your name. Anyone with access to these details can use them for illegal purposes. However, the government has begun to prevent identity theft by only displaying the last four digits of the PAN.
  • PAN and other details are now required to open bank accounts, obtain postpaid connections, and even for employee background checks. In most cases, a third party handles the processing. If these agencies’ servers are not secure, your information will likely be leaked.
  • We sometimes provide our personal information to travel agents for visa applications or other travel bookings and online travel portals when booking vacations. While most of these servers are relatively secure, fraudsters are constantly looking for opportunities to misuse your information while you are away. They do succeed in some cases.
  • Leaks can also be found on social media sites. We reveal a lot of personal information when we create a profile. Some of these make it simple for stalkers to obtain your PAN information and use it for their gain.

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How can I stop my PAN card misuse?

“Trust and prudence are the parents of security,” said Benjamin Franklin. Protecting your personal information has become critical. Here are a few methods for preventing fraud.

  • Only use your PAN card where it is required. Other valid documents that are less vulnerable to fraud include driver’s licenses, voter ID cards, and Aadhar cards.
  • Don’t enter your birthdate or full name publicly or on insecure online portals. This information can be used to locate your PAN number on the Income Tax website.
  • Keep both the original and photocopies of your PAN card safe. When submitting documents, include the date along with your signature. Keep track of the places where you’ve turned in physical photocopies of your PAN card.
  • De-link your Aadhar card from your bank accounts as it is no longer required.
  • All financial transactions made with your PAN are recorded on Form 26A of your income tax return. Check your Form 26A regularly to ensure no suspicious transactions on your PAN card.

Conclusion: The PAN is a critical document today, and one should exercise extreme caution when providing or mentioning it.

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