Let's try to imagine how many times in a typical day it would be possible for someone to steal our data and take our place!

One of the problems which has long drawn the attention of media and citizens is the theft of digital identity . It is an alarming crime with serious consequences which has always existed and whose numerous cases have always filled the newspapers. The advent of the web has facilitated such issues, because it creates new opportunities for fraud made possible to modern criminals, who have rapidly adapted to new technologies, finding different ways to steal valuable information and achieve their own illicit purposes. Identity theft is one of the most serious problems related to this situation. It is a misappropriation of an individual's personal data with the aim of committing illegal acts in his name for personal gain.

As a matter of fact, stealing personal information is not that difficult for criminals . The open network, the massive use of emails, the widespread use of electronic transactions, social networks and chat, in fact encourage and increase the circulation of personal data. This makes internet surfing increasingly vulnerable, with serious economic and social damage and at the same time increasing the demand by all the victims of the crime to have their privacy protected.

It is a crime that may affect both individuals and companies. If the victim of this crime is a natural person, the criminal is likely to open bank accounts, issue fake cheques or reset the victim's account. If the victim is a company, criminals are likely to have access to public registers violating the company's database and acquiring private information. Using the information gained, they may require supplies and funding without any payment and discrediting the name of the company.

Until recently, Italian law didn't have any specific legislation on identity theft. The crime was punishable pursuant to Article 494 of the Criminal Code relating to "Impersonation", that is the action made by those who steal or use someone's identity for personal benefit and/or to cause damage.

Yet this rule, did not do proper justice to those victims of digital identity theft. It was, therefore, necessary to fill this gap in the law. And so it was, with the enactment of Decree Law 93/2013 converted into Law n. 119 of 15 October 2013 and the introduction of Article 640-ter, paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code, which punishes computer fraud with imprisonment from 2 to 6 years and with a fine ranging from EUR 600 to EUR 3,000 "... if the act is committed with theft or improper use of digital identity to the detriment of one or more people ".

Giving a closer look at the situation, some points may appear of difficult interpretation.

The first and most important, is that the victim is not aware of the identity theft until he/she suffers the consequences.

The second is that, as a condition of the crime itself, the subtraction must necessarily involve a real identity, of a natural or legal person. But it is the increasingly widespread use of nicknames, especially on social networks, that makes it particularly difficult to attribute the crime to a certain person.

The third element is the number of possible ways to steal personal data. There is a wrong belief to dispel, that is only those who "attend" social networks or surf the net can run into such problems. Suffice to think of the widespread habit of some stores that, upon payment of products by cheque, require an ID document which is often photocopied.

Despite any possible precautions - today there are very few possibilities to effectively defend oneself from such crime.

The digital identity theft also has a strong psychological impact on the victim. Therefore, it has consequences from both an economic and emotional point of view, affecting a person's reputation and forcing the victim to "defend" from something that was never committed.

Whether there is a law regarding it or not, the phenomenon is definitely remarkable for its extent. There is still much to do, and we will hear more about identity theft . It finds fertile ground in the process of technological innovation that everyone, from State to companies, pose as a strategic objective to raise both quality and efficiency standards of the services provided, but that inevitably leads to the vulnerabilities which are typical of open systems.

Citizens' strategies to protect their own privacy are made vain by today's technological development. There is an increased digital freedom of circulation along with increased risks associated with its use. And it is even more difficult to find a balance between the undeniable need of the right of access the network, and the need for security, which is as much about the individual as the public or private organization.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.