A report from Cifas – the UK’s dedicated fraud prevention service – has found that a record 89,000 cases of identity theft occurred in the first half of this year. Identity fraud has now reached epidemic levels, up 5% on the same period last year.
A new wave of identity theft is taking place primarily online, where personal information can easily be found. No contact takes place between the fraudster and victim and most victims are not even aware their identity has been stolen. Often it is only when victims apply for loans, or a bill arrives for something they did not buy, that they realise that they have been targeted.
To carry out identity theft, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information, including:
- Date of birth
Methods vary, but include: stealing letters, hacking e-mails, obtaining data on the “dark web” and increasingly capitalising on people’s willingness to share personal information on social media.
An exploitable vulnerability
The vast amount of personal data available on the internet and the regularity of data breaches is only making it easier for fraudsters to steal identities.
It is increasingly common for teenagers and adults to post pictures of their bank cards on social media. Fraudsters then have access to a victim’s 16-digit card number, expiry date, name, account number and sort code. This is not a small issue – there is a Twitter account with 18,576 followers dedicated to people posting pictures of their bank cards online.
Potential victims are also revealing personal details online: mother’s maiden name; favourite pet; the first street they lived on – all answers to the most common security questions. With these, fraudsters can contact spokespeople from banks or mobile providers, impersonating and subsequently taking ownership of a victim’s accounts.
Simple steps to ward off identity fraud:
- Think twice before sharing personal information online
- Set privacy settings across all social media channels
- Use password protection for devices
- Use symbols, numbers and capitals for passwords to keep them complex
- Install up-to-date anti-virus software on all personal devices
For more information about fraud, click here.