Identity theft in the internet

Reading time: 8 minutes


  • INTRODUCTION ………………………………..
  • How Does Identity Theft Happen?:…………………….
  • How to tell if your identity has been stolen ………………………..
  • Reporting identity theft…………………
  • Identity protection by organizations………………….
  • Identity theft insurance……………………………
  • What’s The Department of Justice Doing About Identity Theft and Fraud?……………………
  • Penalties for identity theft………………………
  • CONCLUSION…………………………..
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………


Identity theft, is a crime of opportunity basically done by impersonating a victim to obtain valuable things such as credit cards, loans and other valuable items in name of the victim than theirs. It occurs when ones personal information is available to the public, or important mails are left unattended or unsupervised. Identity Theft can occur as casually as on such Social Networking sites like Orkut and Face book which encourages one to reveal ones Personal Information in order to have a so called Celebrity Status, but anyone who hates your guts can tarnish your personal information and can ruin your public image Identity. The stolen information can be used to run up debt purchasing credit, goods and services in the name of the victim or to provide the thief with false credentials. In rare cases, an imposter might provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants for the person whose identity has been stolen. While identity theft can happen to anyone, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. If you think someone is using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes. Determining the link between data breaches and identity theft is challenging, primarily because identity theft victims often do not know how their personal information was obtained. According to a report done for the FTC, identity theft is not always detectable by the individual victims.[6] Identity fraud is often but not necessarily the consequence of identity theft. Someone can steal or misappropriate personal information without then committing identity theft using the information about every person, such as when a major data breach occurs. A US Government Accountability Office study determined that “most breaches have not resulted in detected incidents of identity theft”. There are several identify theft protection services that help people avoid and mitigate the effects of identity theft. Typically, such services provide information helping people to safeguard their personal information; monitor public records and private records, such as credit reports, to alert their clients of certain transactions and status changes; and provide assistance to victims to help them resolve problems associated with identity theft.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?

The methods that criminals use to get identity from people are always changing. There are 3 particular categories that these methods can be divided into. The first category is information given away. This method is referred to as the easiest way to steal someone’s identity. This occurs when people simply just give away information like their address to strangers or when they are not safe online and their personal information can be accessible to anybody. The second category is known as offline methods.This category includes techniques like dumpster diving, shoulder surfing, wallet or document theft, bogus phone call, skimming, pretexting, and business record theft. The third category is referred to as online methods. Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud. The identity thief may use your information to apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name

Types of identity theft

The two categories of identity theft are:

True-name identity theft means the thief uses PII to open new accounts. The thief might open a new credit card account, establish cellular phone service or open a new checking account to obtain blank checks.

Account-takeover identity theft is when the imposter uses PII to gain access to the person’s existing accounts. Typically, the thief will change the mailing address on an account and run up a bill before the victim realizes there is a problem. The internet has made it easier for identity thieves to use the information they’ve stolen since online transactions are made without any personal interaction.

There are many different examples of identity theft, including:

Financial identity theft. This is the most common type of identity theft. Financial identity theft seeks economic benefits by using a stolen identity.

Tax-related identity theft. In this type of exploit, the criminal files a false tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), for example, using a stolen Social Security number.

Medical identity theft. This is where the thief steals information, such health insurance member numbers, to receive medical services. The victim’s health insurance provider may get fraudulent bills. This will be reflected in the victim’s account as services they received.

Criminal identity theft. In this example, a person under arrest gives stolen identity information to the police. If this exploit is successful, the victim is charged instead of the thief.

Child identity theft. In this exploit, a child’s Social Security number is misused to apply for government benefits and open bank accounts or other services. Criminals often seek the information of children because the damage may go unnoticed for a long time.

Senior identity theft. This type of exploit targets people over the age of 60. Senior citizens are often identified as easy theft targets. It is important for seniors to be aware of the evolving methods thieves use to steal information.

Identity cloning for concealment. In this exploit, a thief impersonates someone else to hide from law enforcement or creditors. Because this isn’t always financially motivated, it’s hard to track and there often isn’t a paper trail for law enforcement to follow.

Synthetic identity theft. In this type of exploit, a thief partially or completely fabricates an identity by combining different pieces of PII from different sources. For example, the thief may combine one stolen Social Security number with an unrelated birthdate. Usually, this type of theft is difficult to track because the activities of the thief are recorded files that do not belong to a real person.

How to tell if your identity has been stolen

Victims notice withdrawals from their bank account that weren’t made by them; an impacted credit score; victims don’t receive bills or other important mail containing sensitive information; victims find false accounts and charges on their credit report; victims are rejected from a health plan because their medical records reflect a condition they don’t have; victims receive an IRS notification that another tax return was filed under their name; and victims are notified of a data breach at a company that stores their personal information. An identity thief could also create fake social media accounts pretending to be you, use your info to pass a job background check or rent an apartment. Fraudsters often target people with a strong credit history and no criminal background.

How to protect yourself against identity theft

To protect themselves from identity theft, experts recommend individuals regularly check credit reports with major credit bureaus, pay attention to billing cycles and follow up with creditors if bills do not arrive on time. And people must destroy unsolicited credit applications and watch out for unauthorized transactions on account statements.  The new program for infecting users’ computers was called Zeus, and the program is so hacker-friendly that even an inexperienced hacker can operate it. Although the hacking program is easy to use, that fact does not diminish the devastating effects that Zeus (or other software like Zeus) can do on a computer and the user. For example, programs like Zeus can steal credit card information, important documents, and even documents necessary for homeland security. If a hacker were to gain this information, it would mean identity theft or even a possible terrorist attack. The ITAC says that about 15 million Americans had their identity stolen in 2012. People must avoid carrying Social Security cards or numbers on them and avoid giving out PII in response to unsolicited emails and shred discarded financial documents. Check your financial accounts often and keep tabs on your credit reports to look for changes you didn’t make. Don’t click links, open attachments, or respond to emails from unfamiliar or untrusted sources. These may contain malware. Set up alerts on your banking and credit card accounts. For example, your bank may notify you each time there’s a withdrawal from your checking account.

Reporting identity theft

Reporting identity theft can help law enforcement bring criminals to justice and help keep your information safe. When criminals steal a firm’s credit card records, they produce two distinct effects. First, they make off with digital information about individuals that is useful in many ways. For example, they might use the credit card information to run up huge bills, forcing the credit card firms to suffer large losses, or they might sell the information to others who can use it in a similar fashion. Second, they might use individual credit card names and numbers to create new identities for other criminals. For example, a criminal might contact the issuing bank of a stolen credit card and change the mailing address on the account. Next, the criminal may get a passport or driver’s license with his own picture but with the victim’s name. Identity theft can be initiated in a number of ways. You may receive a notice from a company you do business with that says your personal information was exposed in a data breach. You could lose your wallet. Someone could hack your online accounts, such as an eCommerce site or social media site. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act prohibits “knowingly transferring or using a means of identification with the intent to commit, aid or abet any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.”

Identity protection by organizations

In their May 1998 testimony before the United States Senate, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) discussed the sale of Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers by credit-raters and data miners. The FTC agreed to the industry’s self-regulating principles restricting access to information on credit reports. According to the industry, the restrictions vary according to the category of customer. Credit reporting agencies gather and disclose personal and credit information to a wide business client base.

Poor stewardship of personal data by organizations, resulting in unauthorized access to sensitive data, can expose individuals to the risk of identity theft. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has documented over 900 individual data breaches by US companies and government agencies since January 2005, which together have involved over 200 million total records containing sensitive personal information, many containing social security numbers. Poor corporate diligence standards which can result in data breaches include failure to shred confidential information before throwing it into dumpsters failure to ensure adequate network security credit card numbers stolen by call center agents and people with access to call recordings the theft of laptop computers or portable media being carried off-site containing vast amounts of personal information. The use of strong encryption on these devices can reduce the chance of data being misused should a criminal obtain them. The brokerage of personal information to other businesses without ensuring that the purchaser maintains adequate security controls Failure of governments, when registering sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations, to determine if the officers listed in the Articles of Incorporation are who they say they are. This potentially allows criminals access to personal information through credit rating and data mining services.

Identity theft insurance

Some identity theft resources, such as insurance, can help victims. Identity theft insurance can help victims expedite slow and costly recovery processes. Identity theft insurance usually only covers recovery costs, not the damages caused directly by the theft. Depending on the policy, expenses covered may include the following:

lost wages

childcare costs

credit monitoring services

legal fees

copies of credit reports

Identity theft insurance is available either as an endorsement to homeowners or renters insurance policies, or as a standalone policy. They often have deductibles of $100 to $500. They also usually have benefit limits of $10,000 to $15,000. This means damages that exceed the limit are not fully covered and the victim must pay the difference.

Victims seeking an alternative to insurance or help beyond insurance can use identity theft protection services. These services differ from identity theft insurance policies in that they may provide reimbursement of stolen funds, restoration services and credit monitoring services for a fee.

What’s The Department of Justice Doing About Identity Theft and Fraud?

The Department of Justice prosecutes cases of identity theft and fraud under a variety of federal statutes. In the fall of 1998, for example, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This legislation created a new offense of identity theft, which prohibits “knowingly transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.”. This offense, in most circumstances, carries a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.

Penalties for identity theft

Penalties for identity theft are wide-ranging and can be severe. They vary based on offense. Some penalties for identity theft include In certain first-offense scenarios, thieves may be sentenced to probation if they didn’t cause significant harm. Those on probation may still be responsible for fines and restitution. Being issued felony and misdemeanor charges is the most common consequence for perpetrators. The thief may be required to compensate the victim for financial losses, including lost wages, legal fees and potentially emotional distress costs. Perpetrators of identity theft in the U.S. are often face imprisonment, with the minimum sentence being two years for aggravated identity theft. This penalty increases with case severity.


In conclusion, identity theft is illegal, unethical, and very dangerous to the victim. This is because identity theft can cause a lot of financial and reputation damage to the victim and his/her family. It is a shame that there are so many cases of this crime in the world today. Having said all of this, it is really important to prevent identity theft by being careful of your actions. However, as technology is advancing, it is becoming harder and harder to do so. Due to this fact, it is important for each individual to know what identity theft is and what they can do to prevent it from happening. After this is accomplished, identity theft will be minimized and this world will be a better and safer place. Identity theft is a nonethical criminal offense. It is when someone gathers someone’s personal information and uses it against them. Fraudsters usually get a hold of personal information using three methods: information given away, offline methods, and online methods. People commit this crime for many different reasons, but they all have one common goal of using someone else’s identity to their advantage. There are many different types of identity thefts, which are categorized on what the criminal is using the identity for. Having said all of this, identity is a crime that can cause a lot of finical and reputation damage to the victim and that is why it is important to prevent it. Identity theft can be prevented if everybody knows exactly what it is and what they can do to keep their identity safe. In closing, it is fair to say that identity theft is one of the increasing crimes and could be leading the crime charts in the near future, and is why one must always be precautious with their sensitive key information and not leave their important emails or devices that contain personal information unattended. One should be vigilant towards the warning signs and act upon them at the earliest.





Author: Subodh Gautam, School of law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India

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