Fraud offences increased by 3% annually in the year to September 2016, according to the latest Crime Survey from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Adults aged 16 or over experienced an estimated 3.6 million incidents of fraud, with just over half of these (53%; 1.9 million incidents) being cyber-related.
In addition, a new investigation by the consumer group Which?, found that personal and financial data is being traded on a ‘huge scale’ - and sometimes illegally, with data for sale for as little as 4p per item.
“Fraudsters only need a few key pieces of information”
Lisa Hardstaff, credit information expert at Equifax, believes both reports underline the importance of individuals taking care of what information they share online.
She says: “The ONS noted, in its latest Crime Survey, that in the past burglary and theft of vehicles were the high volume crimes and fraud was not considered a significant threat when the survey was started 35 years ago. But today’s figures demonstrate how crime has changed with fraud now the most commonly experienced offence. And the incidence of cyber-related fraud is particularly concerning.
“With the Which? investigation finding that consumer data is being sold quite freely, we believe it’s crucial that individuals think about the security of their personal data, treating it as carefully as they would cash. Always be vigilant about who you share your data with especially third parties. Fraudsters only need a few key pieces of information to steal someone’s identity and open fraudulent accounts in their name.
“Taking steps to protect your personal information and staying safe online can help to prevent fraud. The latest ONS figures bring this message sharply into focus.”
How to reduce the risk of identity theft
Here are some top tips to reduce your chance of being affected by fraud:
- Shred documents that you are throwing away. For example, bank statements, utility bills or credit card statements – anything that could be used as proof of identity or that has information about your accounts. Read our Five signs you could be a victim of identity theft.
- Regularly check your financial accounts at least once a month. If you discover any unusual activity report it to your bank or card issuer. For more on this read Are online banks safe?
- If you use social media such as Twitter or Facebook, do not give away sensitive details, including your address or phone number. A cautious approach is best, especially if someone contacts you asking for information and you don’t know them personally.