According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), this year over 600k young people will celebrate their 18th birthday. That’s a lot of parties and legal pub visits – and a lot of passports that could be at risk if each took them out to party as a form of identity.
But, the government is urging people to use an alternative to the passport in order to prove identity and age – the objective being the reduction in passport losses and thefts. The government have backed alternative identity schemes such as the Citizen Card and the National Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) and both offer an alternative identity resource. PASS, in particular, is a very secure alternative and has no successful forgeries to date.
The number of young fraud victims rose by more than 50% last year according to Action Fraud, fuelling the concern that passports and driving licenses stolen from bars and clubs nationwide are now in the hands of criminals to open bank accounts, or travel illegally in or out of the UK. This doesn’t only put the individual whose passport it is at risk, but also adds weight to the overall fraud and identity concerns we are seeing unfold already this year.
Identity theft, regardless of age, is one of the biggest growth areas of fraud in the UK. 2016 saw an increase of 57% compared to 2015, according to Cifas. One of the biggest challenges with identity theft is the time lapse before it may be identified. Sometimes it can be months, or even years, before an issue is realised. This is especially important and prevalent in young people as their need for credit and exposure to credit is relatively limited – and therefore being able to identify fraudulent transactions and accounts can take much longer to realise, giving more time for more damage to be done.
All a criminal needs in order to clone an identity is basic information such as name and date of birth. Details that most passports contain. This makes them much more valuable than what they cost to produce.
Losing a passport isn’t the only area young people are more susceptible to either – social media is another. Typically higher users of social media, the younger generations, including Millennials, tend to use social media more than others, especially chat platforms. Now seen as a ‘hunting ground’ for criminals, social media presents a huge, and often easy, route to personally identifiable information.
With more than 148,000 people falling victim to identity theft last year compared to 94,500 in 2014, there is an exponential rise. A small percentage of cases involved fictitious identities but most fraudsters assumed the identity of a real person after accessing their name, date of birth, address and bank details. More than 85% of the frauds were carried out online. According to Cifas some personal details were found by hacking computers but increasingly fraudsters used social media to put together the pieces of someone’s identity.
Again, like passport theft, being aware that they have become a victim of fraud isn’t always immediate process and instead can take time to understand. Often victims don’t realise they are a victim until they receive a bill, or experience problems in obtaining credit spurring them to look into their credit report which can outline the cause – fraud.
With the annual cost of fraud being reported as £193 billion, equating to £3,000 per head in the UK, the cost is significant. And, when business fraud accounts for £144 billion of the total sum – the problem isn’t small for anyone.
Fraudsters are opportunists and look for ways and means of defrauding for personal gain. Where businesses become more successful in detecting false identities, fraud has moved towards stealing actual identities instead – and young people are more and more becoming a target.
Not many people in society realise the extent to which identify theft takes place – and very few people perceive themselves to be at risk. But, with passports popping out of back pockets and social media being a hub of personal information – the risk is only increasing. People need to check their privacy settings and be vigilant, and businesses need to continue to monitor and assess the threat of fraud, understand trends and developments and be prepared to flex prevention and detection strategies accordingly. They can also support their customers by educating and informing them of risks, helping them stay protected and vigilant in times when they may not realise they are at greater risk.
Identity theft can only be reduced with a double pronged approach. Educating individuals to be more self-aware, understanding the importance and value their identity has, but also businesses need to ensure robust, accurate processes that can mitigate and reduce fraud occurring which in turn will reduce the damage to the customer through thorough and vigorous checks.