What is identity theft

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What is identity theft

Digital identity theft is punishable under Italian law through the application of the Criminal Code that equates the crime of phishing and digital identity theft with “substitution in person".

As provided for in Article 494 of the Civil Code “any person, in order to obtain an advantage for himself or others or to bring to others damage, induces someone to make a mistake by illegally replacing his own to the other person, or by attributing to himself or others a false name or false state, or a quality to which the law attributes legal effects, is punished, if the fact does not constitute another crime against the public faith, with imprisonment for up to a year".

The punishment of these illegal acts does not stop there, as many other steps have been taken to punish those who commit these “digital crimes" or cybercrimes.

Identity theft via illegal activity on the internet is a topic on which the Supreme Court has also spoken about several times recently, given the increase in cases due to the increasingly widespread use of social networks and the internet in general. 

In fact, the Supreme Court in judgment no. 978/1996, defined identity as the “complex of personal findings that serve to identify the subject in his relations with the public authorities and to distinguish him”.

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How to define identity theft

Theft or cloning or impersonation:

  • when illegally taking the generalities of others (identity theft; identity cloning);
  • when the new identity is formed using the data of a deceased person (ghosting).

Creating identities

  • when taking on totally invented generalities;

Synthetic identity theft

  • when combining identity data of multiple people or truthful identity data and other invented data, in order to create a new identity.

In our legal system, there is no crime simply called ‘Identity theft’.

There are, however, several criminal codes which indirectly deal with them, namely:

  • Article 494 c.p. “substitution in person";
  • The aggravating factor of theft or undue use of digital identity (art. 640b);
  • The crime of fraud (art. 640 c.p.);

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As the digital world progressed, it was inevitable that we would need to give a complete definition to personal
identity, especially in relation to the regulation for the protection of sensitive personal data. There is no doubt, therefore, that the person who, by his will, is responsible for identity theft is subject to very serious criminal
charges and consequences.

The legal good protected by the criminal code is in fact that of public faith and in case of actual identity
theft the notification takes effect in the presence of a deception on “the true essence of a person or his identity or his real attributes", even if the facts take place online. The Supreme Court has ruled on the applicability of Art. n. 494 c.p. with judgment no. 18826/2013
for cases wherein the “replacement of a person by chat" is found. A conviction for digital identity theft will also be applicable in cases where a profile is created online on social media with a photo of a person who has not authorized its use. The decree 93/2014, article 9, has in fact furnished more clarity on the concept of “personal identity" adding among the punishable crimes “computer fraud committed with the replacement of digital identity".
Article 9 goes on to extend the penalty to imprisonment from two to six years and fines that ranges from Eur 600 to Eur 3.000 in the case of digital identity theft, with the possibility of a lawsuit if no aggravating circumstances arise.
The same commitment to the legal protection for damages caused by phishing and identity theft on the Internet is found in the Declaration of Rights on the Internet which also states in article 9 the following:
“1. Every person has the right to the full and up-to-date representation of his or her identities on the Net.
2. The definition of identity concerns the free construction of personality and cannot be subtracted from the intervention and knowledge of the person concerned.
3. The use of algorithms and probabilistic techniques must be brought to the attention of the persons concerned, who in any case may object to the construction and dissemination of profiles concerning them.
4. Each person shall have the right to provide only the data strictly necessary for the fulfilment of obligations under the law, for the supply of goods and services, for access to platforms operating on the Internet.
5. The attribution and management of the Digital Identity by public institutions must be accompanied by adequate guarantees, in particular in terms of security".

Source: infogiuridica

Identity theft can be summarized in...

A - Identity Cloning

The cloning of identity, i.e. the substitution of people with the aim of creating a new identity and a new kind of life.

B - Credit Scam

When identity theft is intended to use a subject's identification data in order to obtain a line of credit, financial loans, open bank accounts, get a mortgage in his name.

C - Identity Theft

Occurs when you use another person's personal data to undertake, in their place, public acts of wrongdoing or other crimes (activate new telephone users, provide law enforcement with the data of another’s driver’s license information there causing the subtraction of  points from the unknowing victim).

Identity theft may be considered the riskiest situation as it can take  years for the victim to notice the theft and restore their identity.

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