AI and the Rising Problem with Digital Identity Theft

Posted by Peter Rudin on 5. April 2024 in Essay

Identity-Theft    Credit: importanceoftechnology


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing many facets of our lives. One of the profound and often overlooked consequences of this transformation is its impact on human identity. As AI becomes more integrated into our daily routines, it shapes and challenges our understanding of who we are while increasing our vulnerability to manipulation. In 2021 identity theft affected 42 million U.S. consumers, resulting in losses of USD 52 billion. Latest statistics suggest that in 2023 expected damages from identity theft will have reached a staggering USD 635 billion, an indicator of the explosive growth of this serious crime.

How our Identity is Developed

According to an Article published in 2023 Identity: Importance, Influences, and How to Reflect on It (, one’s identity is a combination of physical, mental, emotional, social and interpersonal characteristics. Identity development is a lifelong process that begins in childhood, starts to solidify in adolescence and continues throughout adulthood. Psychiatrist, Dr. Asfia Qaadir who received her training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, provides  the following summary regarding identity formation:

During childhood we start to develop a self-concept and create the foundation of our identity. During this stage, we learn about our families and communities and what values are important to them. The information and values we absorb in childhood are likely to influence our entire life.

During adolescence we start to discover and learn to express ourselves. We begin to assess where we fit in socially (and where we do not). We develop relationships and interests for specific activities as we become independent in order to form our own life goals. Mastering this phase can also be a period of stress as we experience mood disruptions and take risks as we try to work out who we are.

During adulthood we build our public or professional identities and deepen our personal relationships. These activities are not set in stone, rather they are fluid as we continue experiencing life as the driver for and the continuous development of our identity.

Why a Strong Sense of Identity is Important

A strong sense of identity can give us a deep understanding and awareness about ourselves. It can help us understand our likes, dislikes, actions, motivations and relationships. As we are capable of accepting ourselves, we can form meaningful connections with people who appreciate and respect us for who we are. A strong sense of identity also helps us to communicate effectively, establish healthy boundaries and engage in authentic and fulfilling interactions. When things around us feel chaotic or uncertain, our identities keep us grounded and help us to remember what truly matters.  Understanding ourselves well helps us to make choices that are consistent with our values, beliefs and long-term goals. This clarity reduces confusion, indecision and the tendency to conform to others’ expectations, which may lead to poor decision-making. Identity is often shaped by cultural, social, political, spiritual and historical contexts. Having a strong sense of identity allows us to understand, appreciate and take pride in our cultural heritage. This will empower us to participate actively in society, express our unique perspective and contribute positively to societal change.

The Impact of AI on our Identity

According to an article published by Collins Stevens in November 2023  The effect of AI on identity – EU Reporter, our personal lives have become deeply entwined with AI through the data we generate and share. AI algorithms use this data to customize content and make recommendations. As a result, our online identities may sometimes feel disconnected from our authentic selves because the data is biased or incomplete.

Determining how AI should or could make ethical decisions has led to many philosophical debates about the essence of morality. As individuals  form social bonds with AI through social media for example, questions are raised about the boundaries of one’s own social identity. Output of AI-based algorithms tends to reinforce existing beliefs and preferences, creating echo chambers that isolate individuals within their own ideological bubbles. This phenomenon can shape and solidify one’s identity, making it more resistant to external perspectives and opinions expressed by colleagues. As a result, the effect of AI on identity can lead to polarization of different viewpoints and contribute to a less open-minded society. Biometric identification systems such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanning have become prevalent in security and authentication applications. While they enhance security, they also introduce concerns about malicious identity theft and personal data security. As AI increasingly recognizes us by our unique physical traits, it forces us to confront questions about the nature of identity tied to our biometrics. Hence, as AI continues to advance, it is essential for individuals and society as a whole to navigate these changes with a deep understanding of its implications. To handle ethical issues requires strong regulation to ensure that AI technology aligns with human values and the preservation of our individual and collective identities. Without sufficient AI governance in place to govern the  augmentation of  digital identities, stakeholders risk innovating without a balanced concept of its future viability. Further studies and collaborative efforts are an ethical imperative in shaping the digital identity landscape of tomorrow. As we move forward, a multidisciplinary approach involving ethicists, technologists, legal experts and cultural scholars will be essential to navigate us through the digital identity landscape responsibly. It is through their collective insights, research endeavours and ethical considerations that we can forge a path forward that upholds the values of authenticity, humanity and ethical use of technology in a rapidly changing social environment.

How to Discover and Fight Identity Theft 

Typically, individuals give little attention to issues regarding identity theft, unless they are warned about its impact by friends or relatives that have already gone through this experience. Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission. It can damage your credit status and is likely to cost you time and money. You may not realize that you have been a target Identity theft, unless the following happens:

  • You receive bills for items you did not buy
  • Debt collection calls for accounts you did not open
  • Loan applications are denied
  • Mail stops coming to or is missing from, your mailbox

There are several ways that malicious scammers can steal your identity:

  • Steal your wallet or purse to get your ID or credit card
  • Go through your trash to retrieve bank statements or tax documents
  • Obtain personal information from your phone when you use public Wi-Fi
  • Use “phishing” to get information from you through fraudulent email texts or phone calls
  • Look through your social media accounts to find identifying information in posts or photos.
  • Ask you for personal information in online quizzes and surveys

In order to protect yourself and fight identity theft some of the following is recommended:

  • Do not answer phone calls, social media messages, or email from people you do not know.
  • Do not share personal information such as bank account or identity card number and date of birth.
  • Collect your postal mail every day and place a hold on your mail when you are on vacation
  • Review the correctness of credit card and bank account statements immediately after receipt
  • Watch for and report unauthorized or suspicious transactions to your credit card provider
  • Learn when it is safe to use a public Wi-Fi network
  • Store  copies of personal information (Identity Card and lists of Passwords) in a safe place
  • Report credit card theft to your credit card provider
  • Ask them to place fraud alerts and a credit freeze on your accounts


Identity theft can be an emotionally devastating experience with few people calmly facing its impact. Victims of identity theft are likely to feel overwhelmed by the psychological pain of loss, helplessness, anger, isolation, betrayal, rage and even embarrassment.  Identity theft is a crime which triggers deep fears regarding financial security, the safety of family members, and the necessity  to renew trust in our social and legal institutions. One might also have to deal with the fact that someone you know personally was willingly involved in the theft. While it might take some time to straighten out the paper trail to restore one’s identity, it is important to regain the emotional balance as quickly as possible.

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