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  • Paras Sharma


Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Written by: Sakshi Singh, Banaras Hindu university


Have you ever noticed the fact that in today’s digital age, your personal information like name, date of birth, address, phone number, email ID, etc are easily accessible online and offline. And those information can lead to the simplest form of theft. The evolution of computer technology and increased human interactions with computer has led to myriad offences and illegal practices called cybercrime. And one such crime is identity theft.

‘Identity Theft’ can be understood by understanding the term identity. What constitutes identity? In general parlance, identity of an individual is the collection of unique and stable traits, characteristics associated with that person which distinguishes him/her from others. Each individual even two similar looking person have different identity. In legal context, identity encompasses the name, citizenship, address, physically distinguishing feature, photograph, blood group information. The government keep a track of the people’s identity mainly because of the social security reasons. Government stores those information and maintain data online. Data is one of the most valuable and vulnerable assets of this age. Stealing and breaching of data is the most prevalent cybercrime. When a fraudster get a chance to steal your data for committing fraud to get economic gain . This is identity theft.

Identity theft is a crime where a person fraudulently obtains another person’s personal information and uses it primarily for economic gain. It may be used to facilitate or fund other crimes including illegal immigration, terrorism, phishing, and espionage. Technology has made the whole process easier. There are many ways fraudster tries to procure or obtain personal information from electronic devices and they are as follows:


It is a technique through which the hackers try to steal the personal information of the victim and to make the illicit use of it without the person’s consent. Intentionally, these attacks are done to grab the information and use it themselves or sell it to others to commit fraud. In legal context, Hacking to computer is defined as the virtual trespassing by the means of collecting personal information or data in intrusive manner. It is one of the foremost means facilitated by the individuals attempting to commit identity theft.


There may be theft of your wallet or bag containing bank credit cards, passports, other identifying documents containing important personal information.


It is the most prevalent method to steal personal identifying information. The fraudster send a fraudulent email with a link to a fake website that is exact a replica of the original bank sites which are so designed to fool the users so that they reveal their personal information.


Vishing uses VOIP (voice over internet protocol) to commit the theft. The visher will make cold calls/unsolicited calls to the victim posing him as a representative of the victims bank, and talking from some investigation team or importantly you-need-to-listen-to-me type calls. Their main motive is to gain victim’s financial and personal information.


Nigerian scam involve someone overseas offering you a share in a large sum of money or payment on the condition that you would help them to transfer money out of their country. While these scams originated in Nigeria and now spread across the world. These scams are often known as ‘ Nigerian 419’ scam because the first wave of them came from Nigeria. The ‘419’ part of the name came from section of Nigeria’s criminal code which outlaws the practice.


Skimming is a process in which the fraudster attaches a small skimmer gadget to an ATM which records the personal sensitive financial information via access to the person’s debit or credit card including your PIN (personal identity number).


The information fraudulently obtained is then used to steal the taxpayer’s identity and financial assets. Typically, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to steal financial accounts, use victim’s credit card, apply for new loans, service or benefit in victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns.


No doubt, protecting your identity is paramount, with so many fraudster living next door. But protecting yourself becomes much easy and making sure that you won’t fall victim against identity thieves , you must educate yourself on this subject. Following are the few points you need to keep in your mind :

i. Be sceptical of communication you receive from sources you are not expecting. Verify the authenticity of the phone calls, standard mails. Do not respond to them.

ii. Do not reveal password, PINs or other security based data to the third party.

iii. Do not click on the links in the questionable e-mails, instead go directly to the site already known to be genuine.


Identity theft has become epidemic in U.S and other western countries while in India the cases of identity theft is relatively low due to less number of online transactions, and use of internet. In India, there is no reliable statistics to know at what extent identity theft is happening . But as far as technology is concerned, it would be safe to assume that there will be rapid escalation in identity theft cases as India is moving towards Digital India and e-commerce transactions nowadays. Although the occurrence of cybercrime, is burgeoning year after year, the conviction rate in India is dismally low. As against 3682 complaints, 1600 out of the accused have been arrested and merely 7 out of them were convicted. This might be due to the improper implementation of the existing rules or insufficient, ineffective infrastructure required in implementing the laws. These shortcomings can be overcome by increasing the number of vacancies for skilled police who are specialised in technological advancement and more funds to update latest technology by the government which will help to combat this evil cybercrime.


Phishing as we know from the above explanation is the most prevalent form of identity theft. In recent cases of identity theft in India, a fake target bank website was created and the bank customers receive email asking them to renew certain service claiming that failure to do so would result in suspension or deletion of their accounts. Email providing the link to the phishing site in an attempt to make illegal or illicit use of individual’s personal data.


Nowadays, a lot of cases has been reported in which the victim’s personal profile is used in a fake and vulgar manner to harass or humiliate them. These profile contain pornography and obscene material along with victims photograph, phone number, address everything on social networking sites. This also shows one of the bane and destruction done using technology.


Though in India identity theft is not codified standalone unlike U.S.A which passed the identity theft and assumption deterrence act of 1998 which codified identity theft for the first time in U.S.A .

Though the personal IT act 2000 does not specifically deal with identity theft in any of its provision. But the expert committee on amendment of IT act 2000 has recommended amending IPC ( Indian penal code).

Section 417A which punish cheating by using any unique identification feature of any other person with up to three years imprisonment and a fine ,and section 419A which punish cheating by impersonating using a network or computer resources with up to five years imprisonment and fine.

There are few penal provisions which attracts identity theft in IPC and IT act 2000 as follows:

1. Section 420 deals with cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. The maximum punishment which can be awarded is imprisonment up to 7 years and fine.

2. Section 66 IT act: any person who sends any information that is grossly offensive or have menacing character purposely send to cause annoyance, danger, inconvenience, hatred shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years and fine. This section provides punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services.


The intensity of identity theft is immense and it can have disastrous consequences. It can demolish the image, reputation, credibility and health of the victim. It possess the potential to destroy online economy and deprive it of any faith and trust from general public or users of internet.

Thus, identity theft is a serious crime that affects a person personally. The younger generation who are using internet extensively are more vulnerable to these attacks as they are connected all the day for work and entertainment purpose including information, emails, social networking, e-banking, e-shopping, web tv, news , education, home work research, gaming, downloading. Therefore, the users should be more vigilant and active to combat these attacks.


1. Section 66 , Information technology Act 2000,

2. Section 420, Indian penal code, 1860,

3. Http://

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