You might think that a deep knowledge of all things techie might help protect people against identity theft, but according to new research from Experian* tech-savvy consumers are much more likely to be victims of ID fraud compared to other, less technologically-literate users.
The study found that the most digitally-savvy group – the most prolific users of mobile and social technology – made up almost a quarter (23 per cent) of all ID fraud victims in 2015. This group also saw the biggest increase in ID theft over the past year, rising by 16.7 per cent over the previous 12 months.
It seems that the risk of fraud can increase the more that people engage with technology – in other words, the more technologically literate you are, the more you may be prone to taking more risks and not protect yourself sufficiently against identity theft.
The next biggest rise was at the other end of the scale – it came among older and retired households, those who predominantly live in rural communities. They have limited interest in technology, and slower broadband, and generally prefer to use PCs rather than mobile connected devices, and this group saw fraud rise by 15.4 per cent year-on-year.
Nick Mothershaw, fraud expert from Experian, said: “It is vital that those embracing technology also embrace protecting themselves online. Using the latest device doesn’t necessarily mean full protection and being complacent about the risk of ID theft makes for a tempting target for ID fraudsters.
“At the other extreme, those using more traditional channels are not immune to fraud. These people are being targeted through phone and email scams by fraudsters trying to steal their details. They tend to be less aware of the types of scams fraudsters undertake, who can be very manipulative and sound trustworthy on the phone. The sole rule is to never give out personal details, passwords or PINS to anyone, whether it is on the phone or by email.”
There are some simple steps than can help protect yourself against identity fraud: here are our top six.
- Online passwords: While it may be easier – and a lot less time consuming – to have the same password for all your online accounts, there’s nothing more attractive for ID thieves. So try to use unique, secure passwords for each of your online accounts. Consider the strength of your password; avoid words from the dictionary or easily guessable words like your family’s names, and use a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers, and try to memorise them rather than write them down.
- Keep up-to-date: Installing the latest antivirus on all your devices that are connected to the internet – that’s PC’s, laptops, mobiles and tablets – can help protect you from spyware and malware. Updating apps can also improve app security and stability.
- Be social savvy: With so much of the information we post on social media potentially traceable, it pays to be cautious about the information you post, such as your email address, date of birth and family pets names – especially if they may be used as passwords.
- Passcode Protect: Think about the amount of personal information you have stored on your devices that are not password protected. That’s emails, apps, messages – a vast amount of information that could be a goldmine for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen. So do try to remember to passcode your mobile device to prevent access to such information if it were stolen.
- Check your post: Receiving unexpected, irrelevant mail, could be a sign of ID fraud – particularly things you wouldn’t normally be receiving – for example, if you receive notifications about credit accounts you have no recollection of opening, or a mysterious car magazine when you don’t own a car. Be aware if you’re expecting something and it goes missing. If you move house, making sure post gets re-directed to your new home is a good idea.
- Be credit wise: Should your personal information fall into the wrong hands, it’s good to know where your details go. If you think that your identity may have been compromised, checking your Experian Credit Report to see whether there has been any suspicious or irregular activity could help you take the first step to dealing with it. Web monitoring tools scour the web for your details – sending you an instant notification if your information appears somewhere new online.
*Information is based on 2015 Experian fraud data. Experian works closely with National Hunter, the UK’s leading fraud prevention system, operated by Experian on behalf of members. It enables financial institutions to cross-match applications against more than 100 million previous application records in order to spot commonalities and anomalies that are potentially indicative of fraud for further investigation.