Have you ever wondered whether someone who knows your PESEL number can take out a loan or make installment purchases in your name, essentially stealing your identity? The answer is yes, it can happen. However, there are measures you can take to prevent it. In this article, I will guide you on how to safeguard your identity.
What is PESEL?
PESEL is an individual, eleven-digit numerical symbol that identifies you as a person. It includes:
- Your date of birth,
- Serial number,
- Gender designation,
- Control digit.
Every Polish citizen is assigned a PESEL number, given shortly after the guardian reports the birth of the individual to the national registry. Foreigners residing, studying, or working in Poland also receive a PESEL number upon request or when registering for temporary or permanent residence.
Uses of PESEL
As you already know, PESEL is used for personal identification in various life situations, such as:
- Opening a bank account,
- Accessing public healthcare,
- Starting employment,
- Establishing a sole proprietorship,
- Filing tax returns, and more.
Your PESEL number is unique to you and cannot be duplicated.
PESEL and Identity Theft
While PESEL serves essential identification purposes, obtaining it without authorization poses significant risks. Unauthorized individuals may misuse your PESEL for activities like:
- Taking out loans in the holder’s name,
- Making credit purchases using the holder’s PESEL,
- Falsifying personal identification documents, and more.
Now, you might be wondering how to protect yourself from such abuses.
In IT security, the primary principle is: what is not allowed is prohibited. Therefore, access permissions should be only what is necessary. Ultimately, humans are the weakest link in security. That’s why cultivating good IT habits among users is crucial, not only related to work but also in everyday life. Reserving the PESEL number aligns well with these principles. It raises awareness of threats and provides a tool for protection.
“I am pleased that such a service has finally appeared. However, I feel a significant shortfall that, by default, all PESEL numbers are not reserved. This could significantly minimize fraud and scams, especially among seniors,” says Jurek Ochnio, IT Department Coordinator at the WOŚP Foundation.
Basic PESEL Protection Measures
To secure your PESEL number, focus on these fundamental principles to reduce the risk of misuse and protect your data:
- Do not disclose your ID to third parties – your ID is one of your most important documents, containing crucial personal information. Avoid sharing it with others.
- Avoid photocopying your ID – according to public document laws, replicating documents is prohibited and may result in penalties.
- Avoid public networks – while the internet is convenient, be cautious about logging into your bank account or portals containing your data. Hackers can easily retrieve necessary login details.
- Use trusted portals only – the “grandchild” scam method is still prevalent. Today, a fake website could pose as a grandchild and easily gather your data.
- Implement two-factor authentication – after entering your password, always confirm your access with a code sent via SMS or email.
PESEL Leakage: What to Do?
If someone unauthorized has taken control of your PESEL, follow these steps:
- Reserve your PESEL – since November 17, 2023, you can independently reserve your PESEL through the mObywatel.gov.pl portal. Take this step at the first suspicion of unauthorized access to protect yourself from identity theft.
Instructions for reserving your PESEL after logging in:
- Click on “Your data,”
- On the right side, you’ll find the option “Reserve PESEL,”
Remember that while the mObywatel.gov.pl portal facilitates such actions, you can still address the matter in person at any municipal office.
- Report the misuse – if you know your PESEL has been used for criminal activities, report the incident promptly to the relevant law enforcement agency.
For foreigners without access to the mObywatel.gov.pl portal, you can reserve your PESEL at any municipal office. After verifying your identity with your passport, residence permit, or another valid document, submit an application to reserve your PESEL.
If you want to learn more about the mObywatel application, read our article.