data theft
Image Source - https://rb.gy/tevpzd

This article has been written by Divya Bothra.

Abstract

In India, identity theft has become a major threat to society. The evolution of computer technology, mainly the internet which is accessed by almost half of the world’s population has progressed rapidly which has led to illicit fraud offences and illegal practices. These practices or offences are identified as cybercrime. This essay aims to examine the current scenario of identity theft which is infringing an individual’s right. In this context, it indicates different types and ways by which it can be stolen and explains the challenges, impacts confronted by the victim. It likewise highlights the regulations and enforcement, self-countermeasures that can protect the data of an individual. It also illustrates the surveys and concern for the future. 

Introduction

Identity theft is an unauthorised way of obtaining an individual’s identity, information, or data by another which is done intentionally for their financial advantage or monetary gain.  The term identity theft also refers to the process of fraudulent activity which is done to obtain someone else’s name or personal information such as online transaction details for example credit or debit card, banking information, social security number, etc. In some cases, to access the information the criminals must know the victim’s name and other personal information to commit theft. 

Identity theft has increased in the last few years where the victim of identity theft will not only lose financially, but also struggle with the misuse of personal data which has a profound effect on the reputation which triggers mental health, emotional feelings, physical symptoms, and social relationships. This results in the breach of individual rights. 

Types and ways of identity theft

There are different types and ways through which the data or information can be obtained by criminals. It is important to be aware of the indicators that signal our stolen identity which is done by various forms and different methods by criminals to obtain information. 

 

TYPES 

WAYS

1. 

Criminal identity theft: 

It occurs when the accused misrepresents the information with a  fake ID or other stolen documents of the victim to the police. As a result, it would be difficult for the victim to prove the false allegation against him/her.

Hacking: It refers to the activities done by seeking data from a victim’s computer or mobile phones which controls the activities of the victim. 

E.g. Cyberbullying in the form of hacking.

2. 

Financial identity theft: 

It refers to the form of theft to obtain a  victims account by stealing information to transact or withdraw from the victim’s account. It also includes taking a loan, writing the cheque in the victim’s name or claiming goods and services.

Credit card skimming: 

It is a fraudulent way of withdrawing the money while the victim is in the possession of the credit card. It is obtained with the help of a small device called a “skimmer”. 

E.g. Credit transaction while shopping  online

3.

Cloning identity theft: 

It is done when a criminal uses the identity to pretend to be someone else rather than stealing private information.  It is mostly used by immigrants.

Vishing: 

In this method, the criminals use voice over Internet Protocol in using the telephone system to create a fake profile so that they seem to be legitimate. 

E.g. passport scam

 

4. 

Child identity theft: 

It occurs when the criminal uses the child’s identity to gain personal benefits or other needs that benefit them. They target children as they are easy targets to obtain information or their social security number. Most of the information obtained by the criminals are remained untouched until they turn 18 years of age.

Pharming: 

The criminals do it in a way where the browser is hijacked without the knowledge of the victim. It is done with a malicious code where it misdirects users into fraudulent websites. 

E.g. Children are targeted with an attractive web page requesting name and password.

Challenges confronted by an individual 

In India, the government has launched the revolutionary reform of digitization on 1 July 2015,  making India a digitally empowered nation. As digital lives expand the concept of identity theft has become more complicated. The key initiative of Digital India was the Digital locker which helps the citizens to store important government ids such as pan card,  passport, voter id and Aadhaar card. ORS portal helps citizens to handle online appointments,  transact online fees of doctors and government hospitals. There were few other initiatives taken to develop the country in the avenue of technology. 

The challenges faced by these initiatives are the lack of security of the database as it is accessed by multiple users within the government as well as the outside. That multiplies the security challenge. As we all know today Aadhaar card is linked with everything in every platform where the majority of non-biometric information taken by Aadhaar is already available in the public domain. In January 2018, eight people were arrested in Chandigarh for purchasing expensive mobile phones with fraudulent loans secured using fake Aadhaar card and other 21 cases involved Aadhaar-related banking frauds.

Impact of identity theft 

The negative impact of identity theft can have severe consequences. The impact of identity theft is not only on individuals but on society, the economy, teenagers, business, youth, etc. The victim of the crime may lose anything that has a value that is money, property, etc. also the victim will not only lose financially but also struggle with the misuse of personal data which has a profound effect on the reputation, peace, safety and other basic values that contribute satisfaction of many desires or needs. 

The impact among the teenagers who are aged below the age of 18 are more at risk and feared from Cyberbullying. As per the research, the worst fear of this crime is on females than male a teenager. The sensitivity in them can reach a limit of depression up to the level of self-harm.  Having an impact of identity theft on large scale business sometimes becomes unnoticed, they realise it when they become the victims of frauds or attacks until long after the event has happened. In the majority of the cases retrieving the situation sometimes becomes impossible.  When it comes to the impact of youth, teens, in particular, spend hours online every day on social networking websites, apps, or other social hubs. There is a various social platform where these youth interact, text, and use other communicative ways with people all around the world. 

Regulation and enforcement 

The Government has implemented certain measures to protect and ensure the rights of an individual. The following are: 

Provisions under the Information Technology Act, 2000 relating to identity theft 

  • SEC 65- Tampering with computer source will lead to imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or fine up to two lakh rupees or both. 
  • SEC 66- Hacking with computer systems, Data alteration will be liable with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or fine with five lakh rupees or both.
  • SEC 67- Publishing obscene information will be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or a fine of five lakh rupees or both. 
  • SEC 70- Unauthorized access to protected systems will lead to imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to a fine. 
  • SEC 72- Breach of confidentiality and privacy will be held liable with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years or with a fine extend to one lakh rupees or both.

Provisions under Indian Penal Code,1860 relating to identity theft: 

  • SEC 383- Extortion- Web-jacking will be held liable with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or with or both. 
  • SEC 420- Bogus websites, cyber frauds will lead to imprisonment which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine.
  • SEC 463- Forgery- whoever makes a false document will be liable with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years or with a fine or both. 
  • SEC 499- Defamation- sending defamatory messages will be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years or with a fine or both. 
  • SEC 503- Criminal intimidation- sending threatening messages will lead to imprisonment which may extend to 2 years or with a fine or both. 

Self-countermeasures to prevent identity theft 

DO’S 

DON’TS

To change passwords regularly. Use secure passwords.

Do not keep the easy and same password for a  longer period.

To frequently check the computer for a  virus from an expert.

Avoid having viruses or malware as it can steal our identities and still hide in our computers.

To have a regular update on credit or debit statements and any transaction history.

Do not share any bank password or important statements via computers or phones.

Constant monitoring of medical records must be done. Insurance-related papers should be safeguarded.

Do not rely on health care provider while providing personal or insurance information.

Children must be educated about cyber-related crimes and about not sharing information with others.

Do not let children of certain age use gadgets  as it involves a lot of risks where they might end up getting into trouble

People should be cautious while inserting the pin or any other information in an ATM.

Do not keep credit or debit card in an identifiable place and do not set pins which are easy to guess.

The tax records and personal records should be kept secured. Always shred the documents which are not necessary.

Do not throw any documents containing private information. Do not store the data on the computer.

Annual insight report of identity theft 

The report was conducted online by Norton LifeLock among adults aged 18+ in 10 countries,  including India. The report also reveals that Indian consumers are concerned about the embezzled use of personal information compared to other countries. The Indian report  illustrates that: 

  • 4 out of 10 respondents (39%) in India have experienced identity theft with 10%  impacted in previous years.
  • It was also found that (61%) respondents felt secured and protected against identity theft while (63%) of the respondents had no idea as to what to be done in case of identity theft and (79%) respondents had less information. 
  • The report of Identity theft (44% men vs 33% women) and cybercrime (84% men vs  76% women) was more common among men than women. 
  • The report shows 66% of respondents had experienced cybercrime in the past 12  months. 

The following report shows how Indian consumers are technologically involved than  consumers globally in the following situation: 

  • A company selling their products online or shopping order history to another company  to increase their advertisement (52% vs 25% of the global average) 
  • A technology device company permitting its employees to listen to their voice commands via voice assistants to improve its products and services (66% vs. 34% of the global average). 
  • A social media company using photos or videos that they post on social media to assist  their artificial intelligence tech to safeguard their users from seeing violent or  inappropriate images (57%vs. 35% of the global average) 

The report reveals to us how the respondents are not well aware of identity theft like the measures, procedures, or steps that have to be taken when they are the victim of such crimes. As the future concerns, adults, teens, and children have to educate themselves about identity theft as there is an increasing threat of identity theft in society which can not only affect someone financially but can threaten life at stake. 

Conclusion 

As the number of identity theft is increasing with the increment in technology, there must be stricter laws so that law finds a balance between protecting citizens from crime and infringing on their rights. As the future concerns, there will always be new and unexpected challenges of identity theft to stay ahead of such crimes the government and the citizens should work hand in hand. However, India has taken a lot of security measures to stop cybercrime, but the cyber law needs to change with the changing time as it cannot afford to be static. 

References 

  • Alison Saldanha (September 26, 2018, 10:01) https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/from-cheating banks-to-faking-id entity-aadhaar-frauds-peak-in-2018-report118052300151_1.html
  • ET bureau (April 7, 2020, 5:51 PM) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/4-in-10-indians have-experienced-identity-theft-report/articleshow/75029916.cms

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Subscribe so that you never miss another post! Just complete this form…

LEAVE A REPLY