Identity Theft

As technology and the internet advance, cybercrime is rapidly increasing. Cybercrimes, defined as criminal behavior occurring on or via the medium of computers, the internet, or other technologies recognized under the Information technologies Act, are the most severe and widespread crimes in the post-internet, modern period.

The use of computers and other related technology in daily life is rapidly increasing and has evolved into a mode that enhances user ease. Although the medium is vast and immeasurable, it also has dark sides.

Some newly emerged cybercrimes are cyber stalking, cyber pornography, cyber terrorism, email spoofing, cyber defamation, etc. Out of these all, identity theft (ID) theft seems to be the most severe crime in cyberspace.

Let us now understand what exactly is Identity (ID) theft, and the modes in which it is performed. We shall also glance at the Indian provisions with respect to this cybercrime, and a few landmark judgments.

Identity Theft Explained

Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves the unauthorised use of another person’s personal information to commit illegal crimes or obtain financial or other benefits. This data may include the victim’s name, address, Aadhar card number, PAN card, credit card details, and other personal information.

Identity thieves can use the victim’s personal information to start credit card accounts, obtain loans, make purchases, or even apply for jobs in their name. The victim’s details might also be used to access private financial accounts or seek for government benefits. Identity theft can have serious and long-term consequences, including financial losses, impaired credit, and mental distress.

Modes of Identity Theft

1. Malware

Malware is an abbreviation for malicious software, which is any software that is purposefully designed to do harm to a computer system, network, or person. It can take many forms, including viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, spyware, and adware.

Malware can capture sensitive data such as passwords, credit card numbers, and other private information, which can then be used to commit identity theft. A keylogger, which records everything a user types on their keyboard, including passwords and other sensitive information, is one of the most common types of malware used for this purpose.

It is critical to follow best practices for internet security, such as using strong and unique passwords, to avoid identity theft caused by malware.

2. Hacking

Hackers can get personal information and utilize it for fraud through a variety of means, including malware infections and database breaches.

A hacker, for example, may ask the recipient to enter their login information or other personal information in an email that appears to be from a trustworthy source, such as a bank or an online retailer. Similarly, a database breach could allow a hacker to get unauthorized access to a company’s database and steal financial information, Aadhar Card numbers, PAN cards, and other sensitive information.

3. Phishing

Phishing is a type of online scam used frequently to obtain sensitive data, including passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information that can be exploited for identity theft.

Phishing attempts can appear as emails, texts, phone calls, or even messages on social media that claim to be from a reputable source like a bank, online merchant, or government agency.

In order to obtain sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information, the attacker must successfully mislead the recipient.

Once the attacker obtains this information, they can use it to open new credit card accounts or carry out illicit purchases while using the victim’s identity.

Indian Laws Related to Identity Theft

Identity theft is a criminal offence in India, and there are laws and regulations in place to prevent and punish such acts. Some of the key laws related to identity theft in India are mentioned below.

Information Technology Act of 2000

The Information Technology Act (IT Act), a piece of legislation passed in India, contains no mention of identity theft in particular. The Act does, however, make provisions for the punishment of a variety of cybercrimes, including hacking and unauthorized access to private data.

If a person willfully and unlawfully accesses, downloads, copies, or extracts data or information from a computer resource, they may be held liable for damages and compensation under sections 43 and 66 of the IT Act.

Furthermore, Section 72 of the IT Act covers both the protection of personal data and the problem of data security.

While the IT Act does not expressly address identity theft, it contains legal measures for the punishment of unauthorized access to sensitive information.

The Indian Penal Code of 1860

Indian Penal Code (IPC), which dates back to 1860, contains provisions to punish numerous offences, including those involving identity theft. Identity theft is covered under the following sections of the IPC:

Section 419: This section addresses cheating by impersonation and prescribes a punishment extending up to three years of imprisonment, or fine, or both.

Section 420: This section deals with defrauding and dishonestly procuring the handover of the property, and it lays forth a punishment that includes both a fine and a term of imprisonment that can last up to seven years.

The IPC also includes provisions for penalties in situations of document forgery and passing off a fabricated document as a real one.

Landmark Judgments Related to Identity Theft in India

1. Binod Sitaram Agarwal versus the State of Maharashtra (2018)
In this case, the applicant was held for violating sections 43 and 66C of the Information Technology Act 2000. When the charge sheet was prepared, sections 408 of the Indian Penal Code and 70 of the Information Technology Act were included.

2. K Sudhakar versus N Balaji (2017)
Facts: Respondent N. Balaji’s father-in-law, K. Sudhakar, received his savings account statement from HDFC Bank without his authorization. The respondent filed a private complaint alleging that he has a savings account at HDFC Bank, Thillai Nagar Branch, Tiruchirapalli and for the above-mentioned cause, the petitioner has committed offences punishable under sections 66B and 66C of the Information Technology Act read


The expanding issue of identity theft affects millions of people each year. It can lead to significant financial loss, severe mental distress, reputational damage, and credit loss. If you want to avoid identity theft, you must be cautious in securing your personal information, protecting your passwords, and reviewing your credit reports on a regular basis.

Using services and tools such as fraud alerts and credit freezes can help you recognize and recover from identity theft. You can reduce your chances of being a victim of this crime by taking preventative measures to protect your identity.

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