Dilpreet
Identity Theft: A Modern Era Crime
Dilpreet Singh 17 Mar 2020

Identity Theft: A Modern Era Crime

INTRODUCTION

Identity thefts make a standard headline that we read almost every day. What is the real picture? It's not where a person steals an identity but the same person uses that stolen identity to extort money. It is a facial crime that makes the victim vulnerable both financially and emotionally. It's a crime that could happen to anyone and could shamble the life of the victim. There is an increasing danger of identity theft and the rate of crime is high at all the times. A recent 2003 report by the FTC indicated that approximately 9.3 million adults have suffered from identity thefts in some form or the other.

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 is a crime of opportunity which is generally committed by impersonating a victim to acquire valuable things that a victim possesses, such as credit cards, loans or other valuable things. The theft might happen when the information of the victim is easily accessible to the public in general or if the relevant credentials of the victim have been left unattended.

Identity theft is not a recent phenomenon; it has been unfortunately practiced since the invention of the Internet and computers.

Social networking is a must now-a-days and not being active on such sites is considered a taboo. Using their true identity has become a standard practice for users but it has also given rise to pseudonym users who use borrowed identity which leads to such crimes.

 

TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFT

·        Criminal Identity Theft- If a person fraudulently presents himself as a police officer at a point of arrest this amounts to what is known as theft of criminal identity.

·        Identity Cloning- Here the individual impersonates himself as another individual, this leads to Identity Cloning in order to hide his identity from others.

·        Medical Identity Theft- When an individual tries to receive medical treatment under another person's identity this leads to theft of medical identity.

·        Financial Identity Theft- This is one of the most popular identity thefts occurring when a person attempts to gain economic advantage in the name of another person.

·        Tax identity theft- When someone gains another person’s information and uses that to receive a tax refund, this amount to Tax Identity Theft.

MAIN VICTIMS

Senior citizens- Elders often become a victim to these crimes because they tend to trust easily, have more accumulated savings and don't regularly track their finances. In addition to this, they can easily be fooled into transmitting confidential key information through telephone calls or email replies and because of these characteristics they are simple victims.

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. As per the same study most of those born between 1946 to 1964, gave the highest percentage of Yes as an answer.

Children- Children have no credit activity and serve as a blank slate for thieves. Criminals are using knowledge from children to open up new lines of credit. They are really easy targets because they do not track their credits and their accounts on regular basis. For years these crimes go undetected, and years later if and when it is discovered then the only thing that can be done is to control the damage that has already been made.

According to the Javelin Strategy & Research report of 2017, more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017 and two-thirds of those affected were aged 7 or younger.

ALARMING SIGNS

Most victims ignore the potential signals that can function as indicators and prevent identity theft. Some of these alarming signs are:

  • 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 purchased/used

STEPS TO RECOVER YOUR MONEY

1.      Analyse what's been stolen- Try to find out what you were a victim of before you start to panic. Seek to find out what all is missing.

2.      File a complaint with the police-You need to lodge a report immediately with your nearest police station or cyber-crime cell that can help you prove that you have been a victim of theft / crime. The police may merely file a written report and do not investigate the matter so you cannot obtain legal redress such as bank reimbursement, etc. without the complaint. It will also be required for other procedures such as opening a new account and insurance renewal etc.

3.      Inform a National Credit Reporting Agency (CRA)-Contacting one of the CRA's mentioned below will further reduce the risk of opening an account on your behalf without your permission.

3.There are 6 major credit reporting agencies in India under the Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI):

•ICRA
•Equifax

•CRISIL
•CRIF
•CIBIL
•Experian

4.      Checking Financial Accounts- Make sure you close all accounts opened under your name or with your personal details without your permission, and close all of your current accounts that have shown any unauthorized activities.

5.      Credit Reports for Review- After you have placed a fraud report, the CRAs will send you confirmation letters that will further instruct you on how to order a free report. Under the law, one free report from each CRA is required once every 12 months. You may apply for credit report online or by calling on their helpline number.

LEGAL PROVISION IN INDIA

An identity theft is a crime involving both fraud and theft, which is why the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) are sometimes used in combination with the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Some of the Sections of the IPC such as Section 464 (Forgery), Section 465 (Making False Documents), Section 468 (Forgery for Purpose of Cheating), and Section 474 (possession of a document known to be Forged and intending to use it as Genuine) can be combined with those of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

In India, the IT Act, 2000 (the Information Technology Act) deals with cybercrime. The Sections dealing with Cybercrimes are as follows:

Section 43-Punishment by penalty and reimbursement for harm to the information / computer network, etc.,

Section 66-Computer related crimes,

Section 66B-Punishment for obtaining dishonestly stolen computer resource or communication device,

Section 66C-Punishment for identity theft,

Section 66D- Punishing a person for cheating by personating by using a computer

 

The Government has made certain recommendations that 2 new sections must be included in the IPC, 1860 (Indian Penal Code), i.e. Section 147A and Section 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.

CONCLUSION

It is safe to say that identity theft is one of those crimes which could top the criminal charts in the near future, and that is why one must always be careful about their sensitive key details and not leave their important mails or devices containing personal data unattended. One should be vigilant about the warning signs and act upon them as soon as possible.

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