Identity Theft: Crime of the New Millennium

In this article, we are going to discuss about identity theft and it's effects on society.

The topic speaks for itself i.e., stealing someone’s personal information like name, email, bank account details, social security number to impersonate them for numerous reasons, This is a rapidly growing crime and unfortunately, everyone is being affected by it directly or indirectly. It is something that can happen to anyone. There is a need to understand why people fall victim to such frauds and what can be done to prevent it or the necessary repercussions to be taken after someone has been victimized.

Identity Theft involves gathering bits of information through various methods such as Social Engineering, Phishing Scams, Online Banking Fraud, Vishing(Voice Phishing), Fake SMS, etc., and then piecing the information together to get personally identifiable information that can be used at various places. The information is then used to commit some crime or obtain some financial gain in the victim’s name while the victim is unaware or unreported of any such thing.

Some Facts:

  • 5 million deceased identities are stolen annually.
  • Overall, 33% of adult residents in the US have experienced identity theft. This is twice the global average.
  • Almost 10,000 social media-related identity fraud cases were reported in 2018.
  • Digital thieves stole $14.4 billion from US consumers in 2018.
  • Identity theft contributes to 28% of overall frauds in India
  • The fraud rates are highest for credit cards whereas two-wheelers have the lowest fraud rates. 
  • Delhi and West Bengal have the highest fraud rates followed by Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. 
  • 4 in 10 Indian adults fall victim to online identity theft, where men are more in number.
  • 64% of the consumers in India have complete confidence in the businesses’ ability to protect them and use the most up-to-date security measures.
Identity theft |

Types of Identity Theft:

  • Criminal Identity Theft– When a criminal commits a crime and is arrested but presents himself as some other person. Ultimately this results in filing a criminal record against the victim who in reality is innocent and learns about the crime when its too late. It is quite difficult to identify the correct victim in these cases and requires a very detailed investigation and insight into the crime.
  • Identity Cloning and Concealment– Usually committed by immigrants, terrorists who don’t wish to disclose their identity. These people apply for visa by using false information. They use cloning as to impersonate others. The immigrants use this technique to live someone else’s life.
  • Synthetic Identity Theft– An identity theft where the criminal combines real and fake information to create a new identity thus deriving the name “synthetic”. The real information used are previously stolen. This is usually done to make fraudulent accounts and purchases. This also enables  the criminal to steal money from creditors such as credit card companies who include credit based on fake identity.
  • Medical Identity Theft– Generally occurs when some criminal uses the information of someone else to get prescription drugs, claim the insurance benefit, or visit a doctor on the persons behalf. Resulting in alteration of the medical profile of the victim.
  • Financial Identity Theft– In cases like these the victims account is overtaken by the criminal by means of stealing his password. Also in many cases the criminal forges various documents and misappropriates the property or are at times involved in Embezzlement of funds. This type of criminal act also includes taking a loan on the victim’s name or writing the cheques on the victim’s name or transferring money from the victim’s account
Identity theft poster |

There are numerous ways by which Identity Theft can take place, a few popular ones are mentioned here :

  • Phishing– Through Emails, Calls, SMS Messages.
  • Shoulder Surfing– Someone peeping into the screen while the victim is using his/her password or pin.
  • Skimming– Occurs while the victim swipes their credit card physically on a machine, resulting in card data being stored.
  • Fake Employment Offers– Back in 2011 this was the No. 1 Identity Theft scams. Individuals are asked for personal details like bank account number, social security number.
  • Vishing(Voice Phishing)- Similar to phishing , except this is done over a call. The caller fakes to be calling from a legitimate company and asks for personal information.
  • Hacking- The hacker gains access to the victim’s account and other personal details and then depending upon their convenience uses the gathered information.
Identity Theft poster |

Although Identity Theft is quite prevalent these days, there are ways by which the public can safeguard themselves and fight back against these attacks:

Identity Theft |
  • Healthy Password Practices– This is one of the most sought after mistake criminals look after to exploit the victims personal information and play with it. Changing passwords at regular intervals and enabling 2 Factor Authentication cuts down the attack vector by half.
  • Check computer for a Malware– Identities are also stolen through malware that might have crept in through some downloaded file or email. Having an antivirus software takes care of this issue.
  • Destroying Information– Shredding sensitive documents, both online and offline. Shredding physical bank statements and other sensitive documents can help prevent offline identity theft, it’s also important to “shred” sensitive files as well like PDFs of tax returns and bank statements. This will help as even if a hacker gains access, they wont find anything of grave importance .
  • Encryption– Encrypting your sensitive files by storing them in a password protected vault whose password is changed periodically.
  • Inform the Police(For India)– Police Stations have given numbers so that they can provide immediate support to the people in need. It is mandatory under Section 154, Code of Criminal Procedure, for every police officer to record the complaint of an offense.
  • For Security Solutions,          Call: +91-9717495402
  • For Background Verification, Call:  +91-9978990585
  • Background Check– If someone feels that he/she is being impersonated, they sould get a background check done. This can be done via online services or by a private investigator.
  • Database Check– Check State and National criminal databases. The person may search their name in criminal databases to check if they have a criminal record which they are unaware of.

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