Is identity theft a perfect modern crime? As we know, technology has helped us humans reach a whole new level of growth and advancement, but we also know that nothing is perfect. The technological advancements not only brought growth but also crime. One of the most common crimes that technological advancement has given us is identity theft.
When someone fraudulently acquires and uses another person’s personal information in some way that involves fraud or misrepresentation, usually for financial advantage, it is referred to as “identity theft” or “identity fraud.”
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, such as your UPI ID, bank account number, and credit card details. There are several methods and actions that can be used to commit identity theft. Some identity fraudsters go through recycling bins looking for bank and credit card statements.
Accessing company databases to steal client lists involves more high-tech methods. Once they obtain the data they need, identity thieves can damage a person’s credit score and the standing of other personal information. Experian
More and more identity thieves are using computer technology to steal other people’s personal data and commit identity fraud. They could employ information-gathering malware to infect computers, surf social networking sites, send misleading emails or texts, hack into computers or computer networks, access computer-based public records, or search the hard drives of stolen or abandoned machines. Experian
Types of Identity Theft
Identity theft is the practise of adopting a false identity to deceive others and present themselves as someone they are not. To be arrested for this scam, no physical action is required. In this day and age, online identity theft is also receiving a lot of attention.
Additional to physically assuming a person’s identity, there are various other ways to steal one. Even a short fabrication of an identity is enough to get someone imprisoned; living permanently in someone else’s identity is another option. The period of the temporary forgery could be a year, month, week, day, or even a few hours. Among the most common types of identity theft that are well-known around the globe are as follows:
- Loan stocking fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Internet identity fraud
- Online shopping fraud
- Debit card or credit card fraud
- Tax identity theft
- Mail identity theft
- Employment identity theft
- Biometric identity theft
- Criminal identity theft
- License identity theft
- Passport fraud
- Medical identity theft
In this situation, people use their identities to get involved in various kinds of activities rather than live in someone else’s identity. One type of example is using someone else’s identity to get involved in some sort of malicious or unethical action and framing the person whose identity was stolen or abused.
The second scenario involves using someone else’s identity to make a purchase and shifting responsibility to the individual whose identity was abused or exploited. One group of people repeats this repeatedly until they are caught, while another group only does it once to cross the bridge. However, common law is what determines how both offences are punished. It is not necessary for the offender and the complainant to be connected for this type of crime to originate.
Online fraud can be committed completely anonymously. These scammers occasionally have no idea who they are deceiving. They frequently fail to recognise them as unique individuals. They just see innocent people as a number or an identity. The worst thing is that it can be difficult for these trusting individuals to identify and comprehend that they are being duped by a well-known someone or a completely nameless individual.
Identity theft in India
Identity theft has spread to every nation and is now a common phenomenon everywhere. Identity theft has been recognised as India’s fastest-growing white collar crime, affecting many people and remaining the main reason for data breaches.
According to a recent study, 59% of Indian citizens over the age of 18 have experienced cybercrime in some capacity in the last year. These victims have attempted to solve these problems for 1.3 billion hours in total.
The report is a result of recent discoveries made by Norton LifeLock. The cyber safety industry leader polled more than 10,000 people in 10 countries for the findings of its2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insight Report. One thousand adults in India provided feedback on the findings.
Bengaluru accounted for 72% of the total number of identity theft complaints (1,685) reported across 19 Indian metropolitan areas, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India-2021 report. Kanpur (119) and Surat (109) were the other cities with a significant increase in identity theft cases. “Bengaluru is identity-theft capital of India: NCRB” The Times of India ( Aug 30,2022 )
Karnataka has topped the list of states with the most identity thefts reported; 1,764 out of 4,071 identity theft incidents reported nationwide in 2021 were from Karnataka. Bengaluru once again led the list among metropolitan cities for overall cybercrimes (including those reported under the IT Act, IPC, and special and municipal legislation) in 2021 with 6,423 incidents, followed by Hyderabad (3,303) and Mumbai (2,883). At the state level, there has been a change in pattern. “Bengaluru is identity-theft capital of India: NCRB” The Times of India (Aug 30, 2022)
Precautions to prevent identity theft
Every minute, someone becomes a victim of identity theft, which is a crime that is becoming more and more common. Take precautions to safeguard your personal information if you don’t want criminals to obtain vital details about you, like your name, address, phone number, bank account, or credit card information.
The following precautions can be taken by one to safeguard oneself from identity theft:
- Protect your personal documents: shred sensitive documents such as insurance forms, medical records, charge receipts, checks, bank statements, credit card applications, credit offers, and cancelled or expired credit and ATM cards to protect your trash.
- Online security for personal information: Don’t share private information online or on social media, such as your birth date. Never enter sensitive information on a website unless it is secure.
- Limit Your Carrying: Only carry the necessary personal identification, credit cards, and debit cards. Keep your cards and identification that you rarely use in a safe location.
- Secure passwords and update them frequently: Use complex passwords that are difficult to guess or interpret for all of your online accounts.
Some other ways are also there to protect one from identity theft, like: don’t open unauthorised links; protect your electronic device; keep it away from strangers; don’t believe in telemarketing; always trust the official source; etc.
The law against identity theft
Identity theft offences generally follow two steps:
- Gathering personal information about a person without authorization
- Using this information incorrectly
The Information Technology Act cites the provisions of the Indian Penal Code for forgery since identity theft combines both theft and fraud.
Section 66C of the Information Technology Act deals with the punishment for identity theft. It states that anyone who dishonestly or fraudulently uses another person’s electronic signature, password, or other unique identifier is subject to a maximum sentence of three years in prison as well as a fine of up to ₹1 lakh.
Identity theft is defined as someone using another person’s identity without that person’s knowledge or consent to engage in illegal or self-beneficial activities. Identity theft is not acceptable as a lesser crime. Losing anything can be forgiven, but losing one’s identity is like losing oneself since the victim of identity theft is responsible for any obligation that results from the crime. Compared to robbery and extortion, information theft and identity theft are easier and less dangerous. Regardless of the number of thefts, online identity theft must be punished equally with physical identity theft. The court of law must take serious actions, knowing that an offence is an offence whether it occurs once or 100 times. The worst aspect is that a large portion of us refuse to acknowledge and embrace the reality that identity-related fraud is widespread in our society. Shoulder surfing and hacking are examples of online identity theft techniques that need to be controlled. The original source must be informed right away if their account is being exploited by an unidentified device. People need to be aware that not only is it illegal to exploit another person’s data, but it is also illegal to obtain another person’s personal and intimate information. People won’t even attempt to access other people’s private information for fun if they are aware of this. Identity thieves must realise that spying on someone privately is just as bad as spying in their bathroom. The act of pretending to be someone you are not when you are not is the scariest thing in the world.
Author(s) Name: Lakshman Singh (Shri Ramswaroop Memorial University, Lucknow-Deva Road)