Glossary for non-Indian readers: PAN – Permanent Account Number
The geniuses at the Income Tax Department in India have set up a website called:
In reality, it should be called Know Anybody’s PAN because that’s what you’re able to do, as long as you know their last name and birthdate, neither of which anybody would consider a secret these days. You don’t even need to know the first or middle name, the website will give it to you.
I can’t fathom why anybody would think that this website is a good idea because it effectively facilitates identity fraud. Besides forgetting one’s own PAN, I cannot think of a single legitimate reason why anybody would need to use this website. And let’s be clear; allowing people to check their own PAN is not a good enough justification to make this information public.
There are plenty of illegitimate reasons why this website would be used. First and foremost would be identity fraud. Knowing someone’s PAN is crucial if you want to engage in fraudulent transactions on their behalf.
While the internet can be a useful tool, sometimes people need to think about why a tool is really necessary and think about the implications before putting it online.
However, I suppose in India, a country where privacy laws don’t exist, and the concept of personal privacy is alien, it should not come as a big surprise that the government itself is facilitating identity fraud.
Just to try out the system, you could look up one of many common Indian personalities’ names and dates of birth on Wikipedia and the website will give you their PAN.