Identity thieves make a lot of money
a typical headline that we read
almost every day. What is the true picture? It’s not where
an individual steals an identity but the same individual using identity as
a means to steal money. It is a faceless crime that leaves the victim
financially and emotionally vulnerable. it is a crime that can happen to anyone
and leaves the lives of it's victim in shambles. The threat of identity theft is
increasingly felt all over the world and crime rate is an all time high. A
recent study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in
2003 suggested that about 9.3 million adults were victims of identity theft in
any form all over the world.
According to Oxford Dictionary, identity theft is defined as using somebody
else’s name and personal information in order to obtain credit cards and other
goods or to take money out of the person’s bank accounts.
Identity theft, a crime of opportunity basically done by impersonating
a victim to obtain valuable things such as credit cards, loans and
other valuable items in name of the victim than theirs. It occurs when ones
personal information is available to the public, or important mails
are left unattended or unsupervised.
Identity theft is not a new phenomenon; it has been a part of our society ever
since Internet and computers have come into existence.
Nowadays being on social networking cites is a necessity and not being present
on these platforms is considered a taboo. It has become a common practice
for users to use their true identity but it has also given rise to
pseudonym users that use borrowed identity.
What is new is the aspect of virtual identity theft or the theft of identity on
When a user does not choose a
pseudonym identity but chooses to use the identity of a true person,
this becomes identity theft. This can be done by the use of real or
fabricated information and sometimes completely fictitious information.
There are various kids of identity thefts. They are mainly Criminal Identity
Theft, Identity Cloning, Medical Identity Theft, Financial Identity Theft,
Synthetic Identity Theft, Child Identity Theft and Tax Identity Theft.
Criminal Identity Theft
At a point of arrest, when an individual fraudulently identifies himself as
police, this amounts to what is known as criminal identity theft.
Here the individual impersonates himself asanother individual to in order to conceal his identity from
others, this amounts to Identity Cloning.
Medical Identity Theft
When an individual tries to seek medical care under the identity of another
person, this amounts to Medical Identity Theft.
Financial Identity Theft
This is one of the most common identity thefts that occur where an individual
tries to gain economic gain in someone else’s name.
Synthetic Identity Theft
When identities are completely or partially fabricated
to create a completely new identity, this amounts to Synthetic Identity Theft.
Child Identity Theft
When the impostor for his personal
gain uses a minor’s identity to obtain a line of credit, obtain a driver’s license,
etc., this amounts to Child Identity Theft.
Tax identity theft
When someone gains another persons information and uses that to receive a tax
refund, this amounts to Tax Identity Theft.
The main victims of these crimes are: the elderly, college
students and children.
The elders often fall prey to such crimes since they tend
to trust easily without a second thought, generally are more polite and naïve,
have more accumulated savings, don’t monitor their finances on a regular
basis. Moreover they can be easily tricked into providing pieces of sensitive
key information over telephonic conversations or via replies to emails. Because
of these traits they are easy victims to these crimes.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study where people
belonging to different age groups were asked, if they felt that they could
easily trust most people. Most of those born between 1946 to 1964, gave the
highest percentage of Yes
In 2011, MetLife Mature Market Institute review of research and news conducted a
survey which estimated that elderly victims lose at least $2.9 billion annually
College students are very negligent and have a carefree attitude regarding their
personal information, which makes them easy targets. They do
not take enough precautions to protect their identities. They use the same
password for all of their accounts making it quite easy to
be hacked. They often leave their credit card information on websites for
the sake of convenience, which is one of the major ways that they can
be hacked. Sloppiness in discarding papers that contain personal information by
merely throwing them in the
bin is an invitation to thieves, unknowingly clicking on links that lead them to
keystroke logging malware that steal all of the information available on
the victim’s device.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 31% of victims to identity fraud
fall in the age group of 18-29
Children don’t have any credit activity and act as a blank slate
for thieves. Criminals use children’s information to open new lines
of credit. They are very easy targets as their credit and accounts are not
monitored. These crimes go undetected for years, and it is discovered years
later where the only thing that can be done is cleaning up the mess.
According to a report from Javelin Strategy & Research more than 1 million
children were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017, Two-thirds of those
affected were age 7 or younger.
Preventive steps include giving out personal information only if it
necessary to complete a transaction, protecting your sensitive key information from
getting stolen, shredding sensitive personal and financial documents rather than
just tossing them into the bin, and checking your credit report
to catch suspicious activity on a regular basis.
One can use these techniques to protect oneself from being a victim.
- To be cautious with what information about you is available
online. Be very careful with what you share online because
every time you give out any kind of personal
information, you increase your chance to become one of the victims.
- Strengthen your password and change them regularly. Try incorporating
random combinations of letters, numbers or special characters in
your passwords. Make sure all your accounts have different complex
passwords, so it is not easy to hack into them. Relying on security
questions is not a very safe way to secure your accounts.
- Watch your Mail: Identity theft is not something
that just happens online but can happen offline too. One of the easy ways
to steal identity is stealing your mails. Make sure you attend to
your mails and use a good security system for your mailbox.
- Invest in a good Shredder: Any document that contains sensitive
key information like credit card information, preapproved credit offers or
bank statements shouldn’t be thrown into garbage directly but should be
shredded instead so that no one can use this information otherwise.
- Protect all the devices that you use on a regular basis: While
downloading free apps, be cautious that those apps don’t contain malware. Use a
strong complex password on your phone/laptop to jeep it safe.
- Checking your credit reports regularly: Request for a report every
4 months, so that you can keep a tab for suspicious or incorrect
- Stay alert: There is no harm in being extra-vigilant and
cautious. Remember that the sooner you detect something that is wrong,
the sooner you will be able to fix it.
Most victims dismiss the possible signs that can act
as indicators and can save them from falling prey to the identity thieves.
- Verification calls from a bank or a service provider
- A warning/notice from a bank/service provider
- Credit report showing unexplained entries
- Small amounts being debited from your bank accounts in regular intervals
- Purchases in your card statement that you have not authorized
- Receiving a statement or bill for a service, you have not
It is upon you to prove that you are not the person responsible for the
suspicious activity in question. Make sure you remain persistent during the
- Analyze what's been stolen.
Before panicking, try to figure out what have you been a victim
of. Try figuring what all have you lost.
- File a complaint with the police.
You need to immediately file a complaint with your nearest police station or
cyber crime cell which will help you prove that you have been a victim to
a theft/crime. The police may just file a formal report and not pursue the
matter but without the complaint you cannot seek legal remedies such as
compensation from banks, etc. It will also be needed for other processes
such as getting a new account and renewing the insurance, etc
- Place a Fraud Alert with a National Credit Reporting Agency. (CRA)
Contacting one of the below mentioned CRA's can reduce the further risk
of accounts being opened in your name without your authorization.
Under the Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) there are 6 major
credit reporting agencies in India
• CRIF High Mark
- Checking Your Financial Accounts
Make sure you close all the accounts that were opened in your name or with
your personal information without your authorization and close all of
your existing accounts that have seen unauthorized activity.
- Check Your Computer for Viruses
There are chances that your computer may be infected with malicious computer
programs, which could give access to the hacker to steal sensitive data such
as bank account information, credit card details and other sensitive
identification information. If you think that
your computer is infected, run your anti-virus program to scan for
any viruses, which needed to be removed.
- Record all your Actions.
Keep a note of all the steps you have taken to address the situation. Make
sure you include all the numbers you called, all the people you talked to,
and dates of calls, faxes and
mailings. Keep a copy of all correspondence, affidavits, reports,
etc. relating to the situation.
- Order Credit Reports for Review
Once you’ve placed a fraud alert, you will receive confirmation letters from
the CRAs which will further guide you on how
to order a free report. According to law it is compulsory that one
free report from each CRA is available once every
12 months. You can request your credit report online or by calling their
With a constant increase in the frauds and cyber crimes the Government of India
is taking measures to protect the rights of individual to be protected from
frauds or identity theft. They are trying to formulate stronger laws to ensure
data protection and privacy of citizens.
There are 2 ways where Identity Theft can be occurred:
An identity theft is a crime that involves committing of both fraud and
theft, therefore the provisions with provided under the Indian Penal Code, 1860
(IPC) is often invoked along with the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- Wrongful collection of personal identity of an individual
- Wrongful use of personal information of an individual with an intention
of causing legal harm to the person who’s information was used.
Some of the Sections of Indian Penal Code such as Forgery–sec. 464, Making False
Documents- sec. 465, Forgery for Purpose of Cheating-sec. 468,
Reputation-section 469, using as Genuine a Forged Document-sec. 471 and
possession of a document known to be Forged and intending to use it as
Genuine-sec. 474 can be coupled with those in the Information Technology Act.
IT Act, 2000 (The Information Technology Act) deals with the legislation in
India governing cybercrimes. The Sections that deal with Cyber Theft are as
follows: sec. 43- punishment by way of penalty and compensation for damage to
computer/computer system, etc., sec. 66-Computer related offences,
sec.66B-Punishment for dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource or
communication device, sec. 66C-Punishment for identity theft, sec. 66D-punishing
a person for cheating by personation by using computer resource.
The Government has made certain recommendations to include 2 new sections into
the IPC (Indian Penal Code), Section 147A and 419A
Section 147A deals with cheating by using any unique identification feature of
any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may
extend to a period of three years, or with fine or both.
Section 419A deals with cheating by impersonating using a network or computer
resource shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to a
period of five years, or fine or both.
The aim of this paper was to provide information on identity theft, its types,
preventive measures, warning signs, recovering steps and laws relating to it.
In closing, it is fair to say that identity theft is one of the increasing
crimes and could be leading the crime charts in the near future and is why one
must always be precautious with their sensitive key information and not leave
their important mails or devices that contain personal information unattended.
One should be vigilant towards the warning signs and act upon them at the
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