Help and recommended actions in case of identity theft on the Internet.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the misuse of one’s name or personal information by unauthorized third parties. Identity theft can happen both on the Internet and in real life. 

On the Internet, cybercriminals use the victim’s identity to commit crimes in someone else’s name or to inflict damage on the victim. Specifically, this is, for example, defamation, cyberstalking or false profiles in social networks. 

Identity theft from the Internet also leads to unauthorized third parties purchasing goods in a victim’s name.

Legal situation with identity theft

Identity theft as a criminal offense under the Criminal Code does not yet exist in Germany. However, there are other criminal offenses under the Criminal Code that may apply in cases of identity theft. 

§ 164 StGB False suspicion

§ 202a StGB Spying out data

§ 238 StGB Re-enactment

§ 263 StGB Fraud

§ 269 Falsification of evidentiary data

§ 276 StGB Forgery of documents

§ 303a StGB Data modification

§ 303b StGB Computer sabotage

Examples identity theft

Name abuse in blogs, wikis, forums or social networks: 

A perpetrator uses a victim’s name, for example, to discredit the victim through the remarks. For example, posts are written under this fake account, messages are written or even links are established with contacts of the victim under the false identity. 

Goods orders
Criminals use the victim’s name and address to order goods or services online. 

False suspicion and imputation of crime
Cybercriminals pretend, for example, that their victim is committing crimes on the Internet or in the real world. Another variant is actual criminal acts on behalf of the person concerned. 
Cases of this are insults, abuse when ordering goods or the use of stolen credit card data. 

Use of personal data
Misuse of credit card data, identity card, social security number, the insurance card or e-mail address.

When should criminal charges be filed?

File an criminal report online with the police when unknown persons 

– use your email account to send spam mails 

– make purchases or cash withdrawals with your credit card data 

– use your user data or online account in social networks to insult others, suspect others or insinuate criminal acts 

– use your account to transfer funds without authorization 

– use your Internet connection for cyber attacks

What do I need to file a criminal complaint?

If you file a criminal complaint, you should have the following ready: 

– Exact details of the time of the crime / time of detection 

– Information about the crime (what happened, damage, injured party) 

– Information on the actions of the perpetrator or suspect 

– Screenshots or log files of the visited / affected Internet pages 

– Backup of case-related e-mails (communication with the perpetrator, e-mails of the injured party) 

– What actions have already been taken by you or others 

– Details of your PC or smartphone if malware is present

Other measures

– Change all important passwords immediately 

– Contact the affected platforms and ask them to provide evidence (email address, IP address, log files, connection data) 

– After gathering evidence, ask the platform operators to delete the false information 

– With the help of a search engine, check if your stolen data can be found in other places on the Internet as well 

– Website operators and companies should inform their visitors or customers about the incident 

– If malware, spam or phishing emails are sent in your name – inform your customers, friends or acquaintances about it and warn them about it