Identity Theft: Is It A Modern Crime?

Categories: Identity Theft

Identity theft in the  postmodern era

Identity theft has always been an abomination to society since time immemorial. Identity theft or identity fraud is a personal gain at the expense of the other person’s identity. There has been furor concerning the increase in identity thefts across the world on various platforms amongst the common folk as well as the government and its concerned agencies. The identity of another can be misused in diverse ways to an unlimited extent.

This research paper highlights identity theft and itsfurosudden rise from simple impersonation to major cyber security breaches taking place almost every day with the mastermind sitting in the comfort of their home creating chaos at their leisure.

The advent of credit cards did not help postmodern identity in depreciation of identity theft but led to the present situation our society is in. Similarly, the appearance of the internet on the world stage has hurtled this phenomenon to a whole another level.

Our research paper delves into exploring the nature of identity theft in different aspects of society including psychological, legal, and economic.

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Our research has also broadened our understanding of identity theft not only as an old crime but also as a new crime as in the modern era it ventures into the field of cybercrime. The purpose of this paper is to bring to the forefront the issues in the post-internet era and the deficit in the legal systems regarding this matter which is expeditiously becoming a major apprehension around the world.

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Even through these dire times, India does not have any legislature concerning it and thus through this research paper, we have focused on the remedy by creating and amending laws at a required pace.

Keywords: Identity theft, cyber-crime, impersonation, security breach, financial breach, modern crime, and post-internet era.


“Criminals look at identity theft and say only 1 in 700 criminals gets convicted of it. And they look at check forgery and they know that for every 1,400 forgers arrested, only about 123 get convicted and about 26 go to jail. So the rewards are great, but the risks are very slim. So that’s one of the reasons that make it very popular.”

~ Frank Abagnale


The term “identity term” semblance the conjures an image of stolen identities, security breaches, fake credit cards, and ransomware plaguing your laptops/phones. And to a large extent, tvictim’straveledhese images hold, but the stark reality is further elaborated with harrowing stories as well as tarnished reputations.

To familiarize everybody with the topic of “identity theft”, we first need to understand that it has been present in society since ancient times. Though, then it was just simple impersonation and assumption of the victim’s identity. But, the advent of the internet and advancement of technology which has given us the ease of handling our finances, healthcare, insurances, etc. now stand jeopardized due to various scammers and spyware.

As we all can agree that stories are way more powerful and influential or we can say are more effective when we want to make our point in an argument. So to elucidate the seriousness of the issue we want to give real-life examples –

“Kenneth Gibson is a 47-year-old former IT (Information Technology) professional from Reno, NV. Between 2012 and 2017, he was working for a large company where he had access to the Personally Identifiable Information of thousands of employees and customers.

During this time, Gibson methodically stole data from his employer until the day he left the company. He then set up eight computers to run an automatic script of the victim’straveledon the information to open fraudulent accounts and transfer money. This automated system ran 24/7.

Over time Gibson opened up about 8,000 unauthorized PayPal accounts with the stolen identities. He would then apply for, and open, credit accounts linked to those PayPal accounts, withdrawing money via cash advances. The stolen funds enabled Gibson and his family to live lavishly. He bought a boat, travelled extensively, and was allegedly a frequent gambler.

By moving the money in many small increment on the  he was able to avoid detection for years. But, like many criminals, Gibson made a critical mistake that led to his downfall.”

In the above case, some of the company employees remained unaware that their identities have been stolen and that too by someone who had worked in their company and was a known person. Kenneth Gibson was sentenced to four years in jail and three years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service.

There are millions of examples similar to the one given above. Some of them involve retired old people or innocent children, as they are more vulnerable to situations such as these and most of the time oblivious to any ongoing scam that might be taking place in their names or their bank accounts being emptied slowly.

To move further, we must understand the meaning of the term “Identity Theft” in all its colorful sense and dynamic nature throughout the world. So, what do we mean by the phrase Identity Theft?

“Identity theft is the unauthorized collection of personal information and its subsequent use for criminal reasons such as to open credit cards and bank accounts, redirect mail, set up cell phone service, rental vehicles, and even get a job. These actions can mean severe consequences for the victim, who will be left with bills, charges, and a damaged credit score.”

Identity theft is defined as a crime where “an individual appropriates another’s name, address, social security number, or other identifying information to commit fraud.”


The main purpose of this very research is to make people  of the steadily growing phenomenon of stealing identities and how it further illustrates its impacts ontheincrementthe victims’ life as well as personality. Also, this paper elucidates how identity theft works, what are the current statistics around the world as well as in India, and what are the possible solutions to this problem.

In today does the world of increasing competition, and fluctuating employment opportunities constitute two important reasons for people to resort to a variety of “methods” to put food on the table for their families or to just get some decent healthcare facilities. And sometimes it is the poorer section of the society trying to impersonate someone else or steal someone else’s identity to get the benefits they are deprived of. However, a good chunk of crimes relating to identity theft is done in semblance the the the t them to constitute revenge or just to extract finances or intentionally create havoc in the said victim’s life.



Financial identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s personally identifiable information (PII) for financial gain. A simple example is someone accessing your bank account by stealing your debit card information and PIN. A more sophisticated version of the crime would be when a fraudster uses your PII to add their name to one of your financial accounts; something called an “account takeover.”


This type of identity theft is considered one of the most serious ones as it can compromise the victims’ health insurance or their medical information can be misused to get medical medicines and drugs by someone who fraudulently acquires the identity. It usually occurs when someone tries to use the name, birth date, or any relevant account or identity proof number to receive health coverage and medicines while pretending to be that person.


“Criminal identity theft occurs when someone else cited or arrested for a criminal act uses another person’s name and identifying information, resulting in a criminal record being created in that person’s name”. When such a thing takes place, the victim of criminal identity theft can suffer hurdles with law enforcement forces or be unable to gain employment, and might also need to clear his/her name from the police records.

It is a serious problem. But it is good to know that countries are working to make laws to not encounter such problems in the future.


Children are also victims of identity fraud. And it is sad to note that most of the time it is a close family member who is accountable for such crimes. A child takes time to understand the importance of his/her details. The underage children are unaware of what has happened or is happening with their identity information. There was a case where a mother stole her own young son’s identity to get benefits.


This is the “new thing” on the identity theft scene. Here, the person randomly takes information and creates an identity that is partially fictional in nature and structure. Like all other types of identity thefts, in this, there is no one person’s identity being taken away.

It can become a cumbersome task to even locate the offender half of the time due to it being part fictional.


It refers to the creation of new identities by using and exploiting the data of a deceased person.


It is usually done by the fraudster to cyberbully or exact revenge against a person. Here, the person creates or uses an existing social media ID and sends objectionable material to someone else or the ID can be used to send revenge messages to traumatize the said person.



Identity theft has been around since time immemorial. It became simple to assume identities after the French Revolution as the social classes started to loosen up. It was and still is a major avenue for fraud. But it is after the phenomenal rise in the internet’s popularity that identity theft also saw a rise in it!


  • 1800 – 1918 The outlaws of this era killed people to assume their identity.
  • 1919 – 1921 Identities were stolen to rig the elections.
  • 1922 – 1930 The smugglers created their version of witness protection programs and murdered people to attain legal documents to create new identities.
  • 1931 – 1959 Youngsters created fake IDs to buy alcohol.
  • 1960 – 1969 Introduction of credit cards gave criminals new ways of identity theft.
  • 1970 – 1989 Frank Abagnale the famous con artist stole identities to cash cheques.
  • 1990 – 1998 Cases of identity theft peaked with technological advancement.
  • 1999 – 2000 Advent of the internet and search engines like Google led people to give away personal information.
  • 2001 – 2003 The credit reporting agencies were instructed to provide credit reports to customers to prevent fraudulent accounts from being opened.
  • 2004 – 2015 The National Crime Victimization Survey was updated to include new forms of Identity Theft.
  • 2016 Identity Theft was the most popular consumer complaint for 15 consecutive years.
  • 2017 American banks increased their security causing criminals to use other platforms for stealing identities.
  • 2018 – 2020 Technology is evolving and new apps are being introduced; so thieves are gaining more and more access to personal information through these new apps.

As it is evident, stealing the identities of other people back in the day was more of a physical job (killing the person or kidnapping the person for that particular duration and assuming his/her identity). In olden times majority of the time, it was the plain murder of the said victim. It is also very interesting to note that half of these murders and their identities being stolen were not motivated by some financial or revenge motive but to acquire a new identity and start afresh. The fear and terror of mafia bosses (e.g. Pablo Escobar or Capone) and drug cartels was one of the main elements that prompted people to assume new identities and become physical persona to escape their wrath and plausible death at their hands.

Telephones made it even easier to get somebody’s identity. They were one of the first technologically advanced gadgets to be used in this area. For example, the thief would call some random person (the victim) and tell them how they won a lucky lottery or a gift voucher and would fish out personal information such as birth date or credit card numbers or bank account details, etc. Though now the main player is the internet, there are still cases of identity fraud through the telephone, which account for at least 7%-8% of current identity theft cases.

Another popular way of getting hold of somebody’s identity was the act famously termed “Dumpster Diving” (the phrase started doing rounds around the 1980s). Dumpster Diving can be defined as a layman lingo for “the salvaging of waste, money, identity sources like credit cards or personal information in large commercial, residential, industrial and construction containers to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but that may prove useful to the picker. It is not confined to dumpsters specifically, and may cover standard household waste containers, curbsides, landfills, or small dumps”. Most of the time the victims did not even consider the trash to be an important source for thieves to steal their personal information. As the years progressed and awareness dawned on the innocent public, they started being more careful and alert while disposing of any material or paper or document containing even the slightest of their details.

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Identity Theft: Is It A Modern Crime?. (2022, Aug 22). Retrieved from

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