Online identity fraud at its highest levels

Cifas reported that week that identity theft reached an all-time high in 2016. Although all age groups were affected, theft from people under 30 saw the greatest rise.

The statistics were collated from 277 banks and businesses and showed that almost 173,000 cases of fraud were recorded in 2016. 88% of the cases occurred online. Weak passwords and not updating software are the main causes.

The vast majority of identity fraud takes place when a fraudster pretends to be an individual, buying a product or taking out a loan in their name. They do this by getting hold of the necessary personal material by stealing mail, hacking computers, obtaining data on the dark web, and exploiting personal information on social media. They can also gather it though social engineering, where people give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a retailer.

Cifas themselves advise people to shred important paper documents – and use passwords, privacy settings and anti-virus software on their computers.

How to protect yourself online

  1. Antivirus – Up to 80% of cyber threats can be removed by updating your computer’s firewall and installing good anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes. 
  2. Software – Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.
  3. Passwords – Using strong passwords can limit your exposure. Don’t use the same passwords for more than one account and never share them with anyone else. Take a look at our article which gives advice on how to create strong passwords
  4. Social media – Limit the amount of personal information you give away on social networking sites. Use common sense. Think how easy it is now for fraudsters to find the answers to the most common security questions – place of birth, address (even through photos), dob – do you really need to share and post this information with people who know you? Knuckle down on your privacy settings.
  5. Public wi-fi – Take care on public wi-fi as fraudsters are able to hack or mimic them. Don’t access apps such as mobile banking.
  6. Shred – Shred all your financial documents before you throw them away.

Individuals or businesses who have fallen victim to identity fraud should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk/

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