Scam watch: Identity fraud soars to record levels

23 August 2017
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Identity (ID) fraud has risen to a record level, accounting for over half (56%) of all fraud cases reported to fraud prevention firm Cifas by its members.

A record 89,000 ID fraud cases were reported in the first half of 2017 – up 5% from the same period last year.

The latest figures show there has been a sharp rise in identity fraudsters applying for loans, online retail, telecoms, and insurance products.

Plus, while the number of identity fraud attempts against bank accounts and plastic cards has fallen, these still account for more than half of all identity fraud cases. 

Overall, 83% of identity frauds were perpetrated online. 

The vast majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be an innocent individual to buy a product or take out a loan in their name. Often victims do not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating.

To carry out this kind of fraud, scammers need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank and which providers they hold accounts with.

Fraudsters get hold of this in a variety of ways, from stealing mail through to hacking; obtaining data on the ‘dark web’; exploiting personal information on social media, or though ‘social engineering’ where innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a trusted retailer.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas, says: “We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year, now reaching epidemic levels, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day.”

What can I do to protect myself from ID fraud?

Cifas recommends taking the following actions to protect your identity:

  • Set privacy settings across all the social media channels you use. And think twice before you share details.
  • Password protect your devices. Keep your passwords complex by picking three random words and add or split them with symbols, numbers and capitals.
  • Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date.
  • Take care on public wi-fi – fraudsters hack them. If you’re using one, avoid accessing sensitive apps such as mobile banking.
  • Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.
  • Always redirect your post when you move home.

What should I do if I’ve been a victim of ID fraud?

If you think you have been a victim of identity fraud, Cifas has the following advice:

  • If you receive any mail that seems suspicious or implies you have an account with the sender when you don’t, do not ignore it. 
     
  • Get a copy of your credit report as it is one of the first places you can spot if someone is misusing your personal information. Review every entry on your credit report and if you see an account or even a credit search from a company that you do not recognise, notify the credit reference agency.
  • Report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
     
  • If you have information about those committing identity crime, tell independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
     
  • If you have been a victim of fraud, you can contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice and support. Victim Support is the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales. Find out more at www.victimsupport.org.uk.

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