A record number of identity fraud cases were recorded in 2016, with scammers commonly using the internet to exploit their victim’s details.
Data published by industry body Cifas shows 172,919 incidents of identity fraud were committed in 2016. This is the highest level it has ever recorded.
Most cases of identity fraud involve a scammer taking out a loan or purchasing a product under the victim’s name. In many cases the target does not know a fraud has taken place until they experience issues with their credit rating or receive a bill for something they haven’t ordered.
The vast majority of frauds are now committed online, with 88% of cases involving the internet in some way. Criminals can use social media to steal personal information or send victims emails which look like they are from a reputable institution.
Only yesterday, consumers were warned that data on mobiles, smart TVs, and fitness trackers may be targets for ransom by fraudsters.
People aged between 41 and 50 were most at risk of identity fraud - with 34,010 cases involving this age group during 2016.
Meanwhile, the number of young people affected by identity fraud greatly increased between 2015 and 2016. There were 1,803 cases against under-21s recorded by Cifas in 2016, 34% higher than the previous year.
The 51 to 60 age group also saw a large increase in frauds. The number of cases in this category grew by 5% year-on-year to reach 29,818 in 2016.
Mike Haley, deputy chief executive at Cifas, says: “These new figures show that identity fraud continues to be the number one fraud threat. With nine out of ten identity frauds committed online and with all age groups at risk, we are urging everyone to make it more difficult for fraudsters to abuse their identity.”
What do fraudsters look for?
Fraudsters try and access their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank and which providers they hold accounts with.
This can be obtained in a number of ways including; hacking emails, obtaining data on the ‘dark web’, exploiting personal information on social media or by pretending to be from a bank, the police or a trusted retailer.
What steps can I take against fraud?
To protect yourself from fraud:
- Shred important documents such as bank statements and utility bills
- Never share your PIN
- Use strong passwords online – see How to manager multiple online passwords
- Avoid using public WiFi for banking and online shopping