Identity theft has reached ‘epidemic levels’, according to a warning from fraud prevention group Cifas.
During the first half of 2017, there was a rise of 5% in identity theft cases, with 89,000 reported. According the research, fraudsters are mostly targeting those in their 30s, obtaining personal data, then using that information to open up store accounts and take out loans.
Indeed, so ubiquitous is identity theft, that Cifas believes that they account for half of all fraud cases in the UK. Simon Dukes, Cifas’ Chief Executive, said:
‘We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year, now reaching epidemic levels, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day. These frauds are taking place almost exclusively online. The vast amounts of personal data that is available either online or through data breaches is only making it easier for the fraudster.’
Cifas’ study has shown that, while those in their 30s and 40s are most likely to be victims of identity theft, the highest rise has been those aged between 21-30. That trend chimes with another recent study from Experian, who revealed that those who most commonly have their identity stolen are 20-something males from London.
There’s a very good reason why people in those age brackets are targeted more frequently: There’s that much more data about those people available to criminals. And there are plenty of avenues open to them.
From hacking personal computers to trawling social media accounts; from purchasing information on the ‘dark web to phishing scams which trick unsuspecting victims into handing over data believing the fraudster to be a legitimate source.
What they’re looking for is basic information – names, addresses, dates of birth and bank details.
It’s not just consumers who need to be wary. Businesses, too, are increasingly coming under fire, with Simon Dukes going on to warn that:
‘For smaller and medium-sized businesses in particular, they must focus on educating staff on good cyber-security behaviours and raise awareness of the social engineering techniques employed by fraudsters. Relying solely on new fraud prevention technology is not enough.’
Also keen to highlight the need for serious action over identity theft was Katy Worbec, from UK Finance, who said:
‘Tackling fraud and financial crime is a top priority for the industry. Banks have sophisticated controls in place to safeguard the financial system from fraudsters, and work closely with enforcement agencies and government to identify and disrupt criminal activity.”
With more than four in five identity thefts occurring online, it pays to be vigilant. Experts suggest that, in order to protect yourself, keep personal information you place online to a minimum, maintain strong ‘unguessable’ passwords and keep your computer up to date with the latest anti-virus and security updates.
Many victims don’t even realise they’ve been targeted until they notice their credit rating has fallen or they receive a nasty bill, so if you do believe you’re a victim of identity theft, immediately contact your bank – it could cost you more than you think.
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