The latest report released by Cifas— the UK’s dedicated fraud prevention service—shows that identity fraud has reached the highest level ever recorded.
According to the research, 172,919 counts of identity fraud occurred in 2016, an increase of 68 per cent since 2010. As a result, identity fraud is now responsible for more than half of all fraud recorded by Cifas. The majority of identity fraud is often cyber-enabled, with 88 per cent of all reported incidents taking place online.
What is identity fraud?
Identity fraud takes place when a fraudster uses the identity of an innocent individual to buy a product or take out a loan. Often victims do not even realise they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating. To commit this type of crime, fraudsters need access to their victim’s confidential personal information, such as full name, date of birth, address and bank account details.
Smartphones become the target
In the modern digital environment, where many consumers rely on smartphones to complete banking transactions and engage with social media, there is a wealth of personal data being stored on apps and devices; data that criminals can easily access.
For instance, a person’s Facebook profile—which is set to public display by default—will often contain their full name and date of birth. Some people will also share images of their new house (and unintentionally their address) and new mobile phone numbers.
Therefore, it is not a coincidence that a growing number of young people—avid users of social media and smartphone technology—are falling victim to identity theft. Cifas reports that during 2016 25,000 victims of ID fraud were under 30 years old, whilst there was a dramatic 34 per cent increase in those under 21.
Exploiting social media to steal data is just one route, with fraudsters using a variety of tools to access personal information, including the theft of smartphones and the hacking of devices via malware or infected bots. With the number of smartphone users in the UK expected to grow to 46.4 million by the end of 2018, consumers will need to be more vigilant about protecting their identities online or risk falling victim to fraud.
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