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Identity theft – what if someone concludes a contract using my data?

In an increasingly digitalised world, it is easier for "data thieves" to assume someone else's identity and misuse them for their own purposes. Cases of this so-called identity theft are on the rise.

Find out here what exactly identity theft or data misuse means, how you can protect yourself and how you can take targeted action against it.

Editorial Team Germany | Nov 22, 2023 6 min
Have I become a victim of identity theft?

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when an unauthorised person misuses the personal data of another person, for example to conclude a contract. "Data thieves" use the stolen private information, such as address, date of birth or account details, to impersonate someone else. 

Those affected often only realise after some time that they have become victims of identity theft. 

"Data thieves" usually use other people's personal data to buy goods or utilise services at the victims' expense. In the broadest sense, their aim is to gain financial advantages for themselves by using someone else's identity.

What types of data misuse are there?

There are basically two types of data misuse:

Conclude contracts in someone else's name:
Here, the identity of a stranger is assumed in order to carry out unauthorised actions in their name. This includes, for example, setting up new credit cards and bank accounts or concluding contracts.

Online shopping under someone else's name:
Stolen personal data are used specifically for financial gain by getting access to the assets of the person concerned. In this way, "data thieves" can not only order goods online in the name of the person concerned and have them delivered to their own address or a specific parcel locker, but also plunder existing bank accounts.


Special protection against identity theft on the Internet necessary!

As transactions on the Internet usually take place completely without personal interaction, it has become much easier for potential fraudsters to assume a different identity using stolen personal data.

There are many ways on the Web to cause harm to those affected by such identity theft. Apart from online shopping, false profiles can also be created in social networks, identities can be misused in blogs and forums and false facts can be faked among friends and acquaintances or even criminal offences can be committed under a false name.

What tricks do the "data thieves" use?

"Data thieves" usually feign a false identity, lure you in with promotional offers or lotteries in order to easily gain access to sensitive personal data. Even if you are particularly careful with your personal information and passwords, you can quickly fall into such a trap – and usually you don't even realise it.

The latest tricks of the "data thieves":

  • Spying on data leaks in companies
  • Fake websites, e-mails and text messages
  • Infiltrating malware onto end devices, smartphones and apps
  • Dialling into insecure networks and connections

If a data leak is discovered at a company, the "data thieves" can gain access to sensitive data, such as names, postal and e-mail addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and even passwords. Time and again, fraudsters forge websites or e-mails so that unsuspecting users voluntarily enter their passwords, PINs or TANs on the user interface. Viruses and other malware are almost as old as the Internet itself and are often spread via file attachments, e.g. in emails, when visiting websites or via fake messages in social networks. These programs spy on behaviour on the Internet in order to access a wide range of personal data. Up-to-date antivirus software can help here. You should always keep an eye on your firewall and network protection, too. 

You should also be wary of some programs that have been developed directly for mobile devices. Some free apps collect an unnecessary amount of personal data and transmit them to the respective provider. In most cases, however, this only serves to retrieve personalised advertising in order to optimally address the consumer. 

Last but not least, when it comes to entering personal information and passwords online, you should avoid insecure networks and public Wi-Fi connections at all costs. Only visit websites that offer secure encryption of personal data, meaning: that use "HTTPS". Good antivirus programs and browsers now automatically block connections to insecure websites.

What consequences can identity theft have?

Personal information in the hands of a "data thief" can cause great damage. 

Consequences of identity theft:

  • The person concerned suffers financial loss through no fault of their own.
  • Credit agencies are informed and decrease the innocent victim's credit score.
  • The good reputation of the affected person is jeopardised for reasons beyond their control.
  • Liquidity is impaired; financial bottlenecks can arise.
  • The creditworthiness is damaged.
  • Enormous effort to compensate for the misuse of data, both personally and financially.

Great effort for clarification and restoration

There is usually a long and arduous road ahead before the data misuse and its consequences are largely clarified and reversed. Depending on how much damage the identity theft has caused by then, the consequences will be felt for months or years to come. Handling your personal data sparingly and securely, however, is the most effective way to protect yourself.

Our tip

Get in touch with the relevant bodies quickly, e.g. the online shop, the credit agency and also the debt collection agency if one has already been commissioned. Draw attention to the data misuse immediately!

If you are overwhelmed by the situation, get a lawyer to support you or file a criminal complaint with the relevant police authority.