January 23, 2022

Identity Theft: An Overall Review


Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains essential pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) in order to impersonate another individual. This can be used to obtain or gain credit, merchandise and service in the name of victim. Identity theft can be classified in two ways: true name and account takeover. True name identity theft means the imposter uses personal information to open new accounts such as credit card account or open new account in order to obtain blank cheques. Account takeover identity theft means when the imposter uses personal information to have an access of that person’s account. There are different kinds of identity theft such as financial identity theft, tax related, medical, criminal, child, Identity cloning for concealment and synthetic identity theft[2].

In simple words, it means thief steals personal information and credentials of an individual in order to pose as them for unauthorized purchase or financial transactions. In all case, the victim is left with damage to their credit, finances, reputation, livelihood. Identity thieves nowadays use computer technology to obtain people’s personal information for identity fraud. To find the information, thieves may search hard drives of discarded or stolen computers, hack into computer networks, access computer based public records, use information gathering malware to infect computers, browse social networking sites or emails or even texts[3]. Identity theft protection is a growing industry that keeps track of individual reports, activities and social security number use.

Identity Theft Techniques:

The ultimate goal of a thief is to get personal information. Personal information can be collected from a variety of sources and methods. Personal information is not only acquired directly by the thief, but may also be purchased from a third party, such as the operator of a phishing site or even from an employee who has stolen information. Online “carder networks” have emerged, though which identity thieves illegally buy and sell stolen personal information. Also, a small amount of personal information may be used to acquire such additional personal information, and copies of identity documents. This process, known as “identity breeding”[4].

Generally, thief will obtain information by using social engineering techniques. One of the techniques is Dumpster diving where the thief retrieves personal paperwork and discarded mail from trash. Mail theft is a technique where he steals credit card bills and junk mails directly from victim’s mailbox. Shoulder surfing is a technique in which he stands next to the victims in a public venue and spying on them as they fill personal information on a form. Phishing is a technique which involves using email to trick people into offering up their personal information. Even there can be methods that can be exercised either in person or virtually through the internet, phone lines or cellphones.

Identity Theft In The “Developed Countries:

Developed countries has been facing this problem now, but as other countries develop their Internet infrastructure and more the people turn to online banking, identity theft has started to be a major issue worldwide. For several years, identity theft is the utmost reason for consumer complaint in the United States. Identity theft is often followed with credit card fraud, when criminals try to gain access to the victims’ bank accounts.

The reason why there’s not a single European country among countries with the highest rates of identity theft is that they use system called EMV (Euro-pay, Visa, Masters) which adds additional security layer in a form of a PIN number. Although the system has been formally introduced in the United States in 2013, it will take time for banks to execute and update all of their ATMs so that they can accept new cards. Until then, credit cards fraud will remain the most serious effects of identity theft.

America is one of the top victim countries in the world and Russia is considered the main source of identity theft. Russian hackers are the biggest supplier of fraudulent credit card numbers and other PII (personally identifiable information). High unemployment rates have pushed thousands of people to do illegal activities in order to survive. The Russian mob has welcomed the imposters with open arms, providing them with the equipment and reaping the benefits of their criminal work[5].

Identity Theft in India:

Identity theft consists of two steps -Wrongful collection of personal identity of an individual and other, Wrongful use of such information with an intention of causing legal harm to that person information. It involves both theft and fraud, therefore the provisions with regard to forgery as provided under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) is often invoked along with the Information Technology Act, 2000. Some other Sections of IPC such as forgery (Section 464), making false documents (Section 465), forgery for purpose of cheating (Section 468), reputation (Section 469), using as genuine a forged document (Section 471) and possession of a document known to be forged and intending to use it as genuine (Section 474) can be coupled with IT Act.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) is the main act that deals with cybercrimes in India.

The Sections dealing with Cyber Theft are: –

Section 43: If any person without permission of the owner damages to computer, computer system, etc. he/she shall be liable to pay compensation to the person so affected.

Section 66: If any person, dishonestly or fraudulently, does any act referred to in section 43, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees or with both.

Section 66B: Punishment for dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource or communication device is Imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to rupees one lakh or with both.

Section 66C: punishment for Identity theft as: Whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature of any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine with may extend to rupees one lakh.

Section 66 D was inserted to punish cheating by impersonation using computer resources.[6]

Due to increased cyber crimes and frauds, the Government is coming up with regulations to protect the interest and to safeguard people.

Prevention of Identity Theft:

The immediate impact of identity theft is losing money and running debt, individual victims can also incur severe intangible costs. Identity theft can take years to recover depending on the circumstances. In order to protect from identity theft, people should destroy unsolicited credit applications. People should also watch for unauthorized transactions on account statements. Also, they should avoid carrying Social Security cards or numbers around. They should avoid giving out personal information in response to unsolicited emails or messages. Many general websites offer identity theft kits that are designed to educate people with identity theft prevention and recovery.

For example, The Identity Theft Affidavit is the form used to file a claim. This form is used when new accounts have been opened using a victim’s personal data, not when an already existing account has been illegally accessed.

Victims should immediately contact the appropriate organization depending on the type of information stolen. The victims should inform the bank, credit card company depending on the case. Victims should also request to freeze or close their accounts to prevent further damage.

Identity theft insurance can help victims to speed up their slow and costly recovery process. It covers only the recovery costs and does not cover the damages caused by the theft. Depending on the policy, expenses that are covered may include lost wages, child care costs, credit monitoring services, legal fees, copies of credit reports.


In future, Identity theft would be one of the main criminal issues. It is difficult to detect imposters or criminals who are going to commit the theft. That is the reason why people should take utmost care with their personal information. Trends in the Internet popularity match trends in increasing numbers of identity theft instances. This may be due to huge consumer information stored in online database and easy access by others to have that information. In today’s modern world, it is important to take appropriate steps to prevent it. It may have long term effect on individual, business and as well as economy as a whole. With the help of legislations, also taking preventive steps can eliminate or minimize the problems associated with identity theft and other cyber frauds.

[2] https://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/identity-theft#:~:text=Identity%20theft%2C%20also%20known%20as,order%20to%20impersonate%20someone%20else.

[3] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/identitytheft.asp By JULIA KAGAN, Updated Aug 11, 2019

[4] https://cippic.ca/sites/default/files/bulletins/Techniques.pdf pg3

[5] https://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/11-countries-with-the-highest-rates-of-identity-theft-in-the-world-351940/Published on June 6, 2015 at 9:30 am by ALEKSANDAR JEVTIC in Lists

[6] https://www.mondaq.com/india/white-collar-crime-anti-corruption-fraud/785836/cyber-theft-a-serious-concern-in-india by S.S. Rana & Co. Advocates

Author Details: S Aparna

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