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Identity Theft

As we are living in the computer era, it is easy to store our information in the computer. A coin has two sides. Likewise, the development in the technology also has two sides as positive and negative. We stored our information such as password, name address, credit and debit card numbers in the various platforms of the internet. So, nowadays the thief started to steal the information from the computer. Identity theft is one of the major problems among the people.

Identity theft is a crime, it is difficult to control and it is increasing day by day. In this article, we clearly describe the types of identity theft. We also explained the chances of identity theft, how the thieves can steal our information and how the people should be aware of it. Many people don't know that identity theft is an offence, we analysed the pros and cons of the I.P.C and Information Technology Act and we described the laws which govern the identity theft under the I.P.C and the Information Technology Act.

It will help the readers to understand the legal remedy for identity theft. In this article, we gave some suggestions to cease identity theft. It will also help the readers to prevent them from identity theft. The purpose of this article is to provide readers with an overview of identity theft, the methods used by identity thieves, the ways to prevent identity theft and the legal remedy for identity theft.

Introduction:
Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, is the crime of obtaining the other person's information to make a transaction or purchase; it involves stealing of an individual's identity and information to receive a benefit in the name of the victim. It is theft when someone steals another's information and uses it without their permission. As we are living in the computer era, our computer collects various types of information about an individual and stores them on its hard disk.

Data is constantly being stored on various platforms of the internet, the information such as password, name address and even credit and debit card numbers. Identity theft became more common among the people. NortonLifeLock released an annual cyber safety insights report; according to the report, nearly 4 in 10 respondents in India have experienced identity theft, 10% impact in 2019 alone[1].

According to that report, 75% of the Indians felt that they have lost all control over how personal information is collected. 56% of the Indians felt that it is too late to protect their private account since all their information is already out. 50% of Indians felt that it is impossible to protect their private account.

Earlier the thieves could steal wallets and then the thieves started to steal credit and debit cards. Nowadays these methods have become quite older, now the thieves started to steal private information. The pathetic condition is many people don't know that identity theft is an offence under the sec. 464 and 465 of the IPC. Making of a false electronic document has been made punishable under those sections.

Types Of Identity Theft:
Identity theft is pretending to be someone they are not by deceiving the world using a fake identity. This fraudulent act needs not to be done physically to get arrested. Online identity theft is also gaining tremendous attention in this era.

There are several ways to steal an identity other than physically living in the identity of a person. Living a permanent life in someone's identity is not the only way to forge an identity, even a temporary forge is enough for someone to get arrested. The temporary forgery may consist of a year, a month, a week, a day or even some hours. Some of the major identity theft which is familiar all over the world is:
  • Online shopping fraud
  • Debit card/ Credit card fraud
  • Account takeover
  • Biometric identity theft
  • Criminal identity theft
  • Bust out fraud
  • Mail identity theft
  • License identity theft
  • Synthetic identity theft
  • Passport fraud
  • Medical identity theft
  • Loan stocking fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Internet identity fraud
  • Child identity theft
  • Tax identity theft
  • Senior scams
  • Mail identity theft
  • Employment identity theft

Here, people are not living in the identity of someone; instead they use their identity to involve themselves in other sorts of activities. Using someone's identity to involve in some illegal or mischievous activity and framing the person of whose identity is stolen or used is one kind of example.

The other example is using someone's identity for purchase and transferring the burden to the person of whose identity is stolen or used. A set of people does this on a regular basis until or unless they get caught and other sets of people do this as a one-time thing to pass the bridge. However, the punishment for both crimes is generated under common law. The culprit and the victim need not know each other to be involved in this kind of crime.

Online fraudulent activity can be done with total anonymity. Sometimes, these frauds don't know whom they are cheating. Most times, they don't see them as an individual. The innocent people are just a number or an identity for them. The worst part is that it is not that easy for these innocent people to find and understand that they are being deceived by a well-known person or a totally anonymous person.

Chances Of Identity Theft:
Many of us know that there is a scam named identity theft in our day to day life but not aware of how this is happening. In 2017, 6.64 per cent of consumers became victims of identity fraud that's about 1 in 15 people. One in five victims of identity theft has experienced it more than once. Identity theft is one of the most common consequences of data breaches, and exposed consumer records jumped 126 per cent in 2018[2].

As already mentioned, physical presence is not necessary for a person to forge someone's identity, mere online data is more than enough. Likewise, the victim and the culprit need not know one another. Identity is being stolen in random anonymous ways. Physically, if a person is trying to steal somebody's identity, the culprit must know at least some details and some hard proofs about the victim even if the victim doesn't know the culprit at all.

And the process of physical identity theft is long term and is highly prone to risk. If the person is about to be caught, he gets caught red-handed as the fake details provided by him can be used as a shred of evidence. Apparently, online identity theft may or may not be a long-term process depending upon the person who steals the identity.

Here, the fraud has his own time to escape once he gets caught. In addition to that, personal details regarding the fraud are barely exposed as he only exposes his fake identity to the world. If the police tried to track and find the person, by that time he would be aware and escape erasing every evidence. Here are some of the chances of being identity stolen listed below:
  • Shoulder surfing: It is one of the old-fashioned methods of stealing one's identity. It is the practice of spying on the user of a cash dispensing machine or other electronic devices in order to obtain their personal identification number, password etc.,
  • Hacking: Hacking is an act of obtaining access or authority over someone's mobile or computer or any other electronic device in an unethical way. By gaining access, one can destroy the details in it or misuse the current details in a wrongful way. They perform whatever they want in the identity of the victim.
  • Physical Identity theft: This type of identity theft is literally pretending to be someone face to face in their real-life by gathering their hard copy identity proofs. The possibility of this happening rises high when the person is missing for several years.
  • Misusing the provided data: Many multinational corporate companies such as online platforms have our intimate as well as personal information. They claim it as the end to end encrypted source but turns out that some platforms are selling the customer's information to advertising agencies. Now, there is a high chance that the details and the identity can be stolen by either the advertising agency or even the corporate company.

Can it be prevented?
Some good prevention tactics include changing passwords regularly, being cautious when putting personal information on social media and checking your bank and credit accounts frequently to spot fraudulent transactions.

Another helpful addition to your protection strategies is having a monitoring service like Identity Force, which continuously monitors for suspicious activity, provides alerts, and offers white-glove restoration and assistance with a $1 million identity theft insurance recovery policy if needed[3]. No one wants to be the next identity theft victim, so putting some tactics into place now to better their odds.

Laws Governing Identity Theft:
The crimes of identity theft are of two steps:
  1. Wrongful collection of personal identity of an individual
  2. Wrongful use of such information
Identity theft involves both theft and forgery, thus the provisions given under the Indian Penal Code for forgery are invoked with the Information Technology Act. The following provisions under the Indian Penal Code govern forgery:
  • Sec 464- if a person, fraudulently, by cancellation or alters a document in any material
  • Sec 465- if a person commits the fraudulent act, he shall be sentenced to jail, which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
  • Sec 468- if a person commits the fraudulent act and he used the forged document for the purpose of cheating, he shall be sentenced to jail, which may extend to seven years and also held liable to fine.
  • Sec 469- if a person commits forgery and he used the forged document to harm the reputation of any person, the person shall be sentenced to jail which may be extended to three years and also held liable to fine.
  • Sec 471- if a person commits forgery and has the intention to use the forged document as genuine, the person shall be punished.
  • Sec 474- if a person possesses a forged document and knows that it was a forged document and has the intention to use the forged document as genuine, the person shall be sentenced to jail which may be extended to seven years and also be liable to fine.

The following provisions under the Information Technology Act govern forgery:
  • Sec 43- if a person, without the permission of the owner, damages his computer, the person shall be liable to pay the compensation to him.
  • Sec 66- if a person commits forgery, the person shall be imprisoned which may be extended to three years or fine which extended to five lakh rupees or with both.
  • Sec 66B- if a person has stolen a computer resource, the person shall be imprisoned which may be extended to three years or fine which may extend to one lakh rupees or with both
  • Sec 66C- if a person uses other's identification fraudulently, the person shall be imprisoned which may be extended to three years and also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
  • Sec 66D- if a person cheats a computer resource for personating, the person shall be imprisoned which may be extended to three years and also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.

Conclusion:
A person representing another person without the consent as well as the knowledge of the other to involve in illegal or personal benefit activities are likely to call identity theft, identity theft cannot be tolerated as any other minor crimes. A person losing anything can be forgiven but losing identity is like losing themselves because, if any liability occurs during identity theft, it falls under the person who has been deceived. Information theft and identity theft are simpler and less risky than robbery and extortion.

Online identity theft must be punished as equal as physical identity thefts irrespective of the counts of thefts. Whether it is a one-time thing or a one-hundred-time thing, the court of law must take serious actions understanding that an offence is an offence.

The worst part is that many of us cannot accept and adopt a fact that a scam relating to identity is spreading around us. Online identity theft methods such as shoulder surfing and hacking must be taken into control. Immediate notification must be sent to the original source stating that their account is being used from an unknown device.

This system is active in popular and trustworthy applications but it must be effective in every most used application soon. Double-checking the user identifications, demanding to change the password frequently and sending OTP to verify the user during each and every transaction is the help from the corporate which restricts the identity theft to an extent.

People must be aware that not only misusing other's data is punishable but also collecting other's personal as well as intimate information will also be taken under serious note. By knowing so, people will not even try to gain access to the intimate information of other people even for fun. The identity frauds must understand the fact that peeping into someone personally is as awful as peeping into someone's restroom. Nothing in this world is creepier than pretending to be someone when they are not.

End-Notes:
  1. E.T.Bureau,4 in 10 Indians have experienced identity theft: Report, The Economic Times, Apr 7 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/4-in-10-indians-have-experienced-identity-theft-report/articleshow/75029916.cms
  2. Jennifer Bellemare, What are your odds of getting your identity stolen? IDENTITY FORCE (Jul.17, 2019),https://www.identityforce.com/blog/identity-theft-odds-identity-theft-statistics#:~:text=By%20the%20Numbers&text=In%202017%2C%206.64%20percent%20of,than%20twice%20the%20global%20average
  3. Jennifer Bellemare, What are your odds of getting your identity stolen? IDENTITY FORCE (Jul.17, 2019), https://www.identityforce.com/blog/identity-theft-odds-identity-theft-statistics#:~:text=By%20the%20Numbers&text=In%202017%2C%206.64%20percent%20of,than%20twice%20the%20global%20average
Written By:
  1. Aditya Krishnan. B And
  2. Barathkumar K.M

    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JL30521519360-19-720

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