| Vallabh.Ozarkar and Sharmeen.Hakim@timesgroup.com

Ameya Dhapre, a 34-year-old computer engineer from Girgaon, has had his life turned upside-down ever since someone posted a copy of his Aadhaar card on the web. His case highlights how easy it is to impersonate someone with just a copy of their Aadhaar card, and how important it is to guard it just as one would a credit card or a bank account number.

According to an FIR registered by the VP Road police, Dhapre had enrolled for Aadhaar in 2012. Three years later, an officer from Mundhva police station in Pune arrived at his house, suspecting that he had been harassing a woman over the phone. Dhapre had to travel to Pune to record his statement. It turned out that the man behind the harassment had used Dhapre’s Aadhaar card to get KYC done for not just the mobile connection in question, but two others as well.

Dhapre did not file a police complaint at the time as he believed the issue had been resolved. However, in 2017, he went to a bank to open a joint account with his father.

He furnished his Aadhaar card but was told it could not be accepted as it had already been linked with another bank account. Dhapre wrote an email to the bank at once, saying his Aadhaar card had been misused.

He also began to wonder what was going on, and decided to Google his name. That’s when he realised to his shock that a copy of his Aadhaar card had been posted on several websites. He soon learned that someone using his name and Aadhaar number had opened an account on a shopping website and duped several people with the false promise of selling them branded electronic gadgets. Soon enough, victims of these fraudsters began showing up at Dhapre’s door, demanding their money back.

Many created a scene and even warned him of ‘consequences’ if he didn’t return their money. Frightened, Dhapre contacted the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) – which issues Aadhaar cards – and lodged a complaint. He was told while his Aadhaar number could not be changed, it could be cancelled and that he should do so. However, Dhapre was reluctant to cancel his number it since it was linked to his legitimate accounts as well, and doing so would throw his life into turmoil.

He said, “I approached UIDAI but they have no way of changing someone’s Aadhaar number. They said I should de-activate my account but that is not a solution. They wanted me to lodge a complaint for every single fraudulent transaction. That is an impossible task. They need to have a better solution to my problem as I am suffering for no fault of my own.”

Dhapre decided instead to file a complaint at the cyber crime police station at Bandra-Kurla Complex.

He also requested them to get the copies of his Aadhaar card removed from the web. The police sent his request to the concerned authority but no action was taken and the case was eventually forwarded to the local police for further investigation. “There was no relief. People would keep coming to my house. In October a man from Bhiwandi came to my home claiming that I had taken Rs17,000 from him for an iPhone but had never given him the gadget. It was only when I explained everything in detail to him that the man calmed down and left,” Dhapre said in his statement to the police.

He told Mirror, “My life has become hell. I receive at least two or three authentication-failure emails a day, apart from several anonymous calls and messages, which indicate that people are trying to use my Aadhaar somewhere. Jharkhand, Punjab, Haryana… the list is endless. I also have a toddler at home, and random men turning up at my home every day, sometimes in my absence, is scary.”

He added, “Whenever I inquire with the police, their only response is: ‘We are investigating’. There is no relief in sight. Even the cyber crime cell hasn’t been able to help erase my details online.”

Mirror has decided to publish details of Dhapre’s ordeal, with his consent, in the public interest.

Courtesy Mumbai Mirror

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