New statistics from fraud prevention organisation CIFAS has found that the overall number of recorded cases of Identity Fraud in the UK in 2016 were almost 173,000, an all-time high level and a 59% increase on the figures just three years earlier.
What’s more, almost 25,000 victims of fraud were aged under 30, and the number of under-21s affected was up by a third.
Did you know that almost nine out of ten (88%) identity frauds are now committed online? With so much personal data on the internet, we are all potentially vulnerable to hacking or phishing. Your full name, date of birth, current address and national insurance number, and the passwords and PINs to your bank accounts are among the things fraudsters are hoping to get hold of.
Once identity fraudsters have enough of your personal details, they can apply for credit in your name and run up debts without you knowing. In fact, you’re 17 times more likely to suffer a case of fraud than a robbery.*
What you can do to protect yourself
- Check your social media privacy settings and don’t give away too much personal information
- Try not to write down or list PINs or passwords, in emails too
- Keep an eye on post you’re expecting, and redirect post if you move home
- When shopping online, it’s best to use websites that you know and trust.
- Always look for a security padlock icon in the top left hand corner of a page before you register financial or personal information on a website.
What are the fraudsters doing?
CIFAS say that the vast majority of identity fraud are when a fraudster pretends to be an individual, attempting to buy a product or take out a loan in their name. They may try to use:
- So-called ‘phishing’ emails or phone calls pretending to be from your bank
- Setting up fake banking or credit card websites to get you type in your details
- ‘Mining’ your postings on social networking sites such as Facebook for information
- Scanning the ‘dark web’ for details of lost or stolen cards
How might you suspect identity fraud?
Often the first time you notice that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud will be when you try to apply for credit and are turned down because of your level of debts. Other red flags can be:
- Charges you don’t recognise appear on your statements
- You receive calls or letters from collection agencies
- Bills arrive from companies you haven’t dealt with
- Your credit report contains accounts that you didn’t open, or applications for credit that you haven’t made.
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of ID Fraud
To report fraud, attempted fraud or cyber crime , the first step is to contact Action Fraud – the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre – and receive a police crime reference number. They will advise on the next steps to take and tell you any other organisations to contact.
If you are concerned that one or other of your online accounts has been compromised, then it is worth changing your password(s) to a new one as soon as you are able, and try not to use the same passwords for different accounts, especially those with financial information.
*ONS overview of fraud statistics (July 2016)