Identity theft: the facts
Did you know that every three seconds someone’s identity is stolen? Of course you didn’t. Did you also know that a report out earlier this year estimated the annual cost of fraud in the UK was £193 billion – equal to nearly £3,000 per head? Probably not.
Unless you’re part of the lucrative business of selling and trading information, it’s likely that identity fraud isn’t high up on your agenda. However, with identity theft being the UK’s fastest growing criminal activity – it’s about time you read up on the facts and figures.
Who’s most at risk?
Children and college students
Can you believe that perpetrators target the young? Children and college students with good, clean credit scores are targeted 35 times more than adults. Young people are more likely to be invested in the digital world, which opens them up to potential hackers. So if you’re wondering why your 5-year old can’t get a bank loan for that speedboat they’ve always wanted – there’s your answer…
As a college student, protect yourself from unwanted attention by limiting the amount of access people have to your private information. If a job application asks for your National Insurance number, politely inform the company that you’d be happy to give them this information if a job offer is made. Likewise, just keep the need-to-know information on your CV only.
Social media users
Jessie loves to Tweet, Snapchat and Instagram her life away. Jessie shares a lot of personal information on these social media platforms on the basis that she’s just sharing with friends. Jessie couldn’t be more wrong.
Perpetrators are more likely to target those with personal information on their social media. It’s true… Cifas, a fraud prevention service, found that whilst a small percentage of fraud cases involved fictitious identities, most fraudsters assumed the identity of a real person. With more than 85% of frauds carried out online, some personal details were found by hacking computers but increasingly fraudsters used social media to put together the pieces of someone’s identity.
Social media users are warned not to give away details such as phone numbers, addresses, date of birth, or pictures of their home in profile information or posts. If you are social media savvy and spend a lot of time posting on your snazzy smartphone, you’re actually 33% more likely to be a victim of ID fraud.
Your Great Great Great Great Aunty Twice Removed
Shockingly, 25% of people affected by fraud, annually, are dead people. From applying for loans using the details of the deceased, to hacking a Facebook account – these fraudsters will stop at nothing in their pursuit of private information.
You can reduce the opportunity given to fraudsters by not including personal details such as the whole birth date of your loved one on their obituary, canceling all licenses and accounts with credit issuers, and by sending a copy of the death certificate to the big name credit issuers like Equifax and Experian. There’s no further comment needed here, just a walk of shame by the hackers will suffice.
Public Wi-Fi Predator
This bad egg will set up fake Wi-Fi networks or use sniffer software to steal personal information when victims are using public Wi-Fi at coffee shops, airports and hotels. We’ve all heard the horror stories, but how many of us actually take care when using public Wi-Fi.
Sometimes the euphoria of finding a Wi-Fi connection that will load our emails and update us on the latest football scores overpowers the need to stay safe online – but it really shouldn’t.Using a VPN should protect you from the public Wi-Fi predator – take a look at Kaspersky’s security advice to find out how you can do this. The public Wi-Fi predators are out to get you, so keep your eyes peeled.
Harry the Hacker uses his technology know-how to obtain victims’ data and personal information by hacking home Wi-Fi networks or using social engineering, malware, or phishing emails. Not cool Harry.
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This perpetrator gathers victims’ personal and financial information by dumpster diving, stealing mail, shoulder surfing, or swiping wallets/purses. These guys can be found rifling through bins searching for information which they can use to commit fraudulent activity – Equifax estimates that 7% of identity fraud victims have fallen foul of bin raiders searching through their rubbish.
Fellowes, a document shredder firm, got their hands dirty for a recent survey when they went rummaging through the rubbish bins of a street in south London. They found that 97% of household were regularly throwing away paper which carried their name and address. In 28% of cases, households had thrown away all the information a fraudster would require to carry out identity theft. One third binned their full credit or debit card number and 46% had thrown away an item containing their full bank account details.
How can you protect yourself?
- Follow security measures when using public Wi-Fi like making sure you use a VPN service to encrypt your internet communications and limiting your online shopping and banking on public Wi-Fi.
- Secure your device and your home Wi-Fi network by enabling the firewall protection, creating random and strong passwords for all accounts and enabling WPA2 Encryption on your home Wi-Fi network.
- Protect your personal information offline. Ensure that you keep important documents safe, shred any papers that contain your personal information before discarding and regularly monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity.
- Learn the ins-and-outs of cyber security and battle the likes of Harry the Hacker and his pals by becoming a pro ethical hacker. IT jobs are in high demand right now so you could earn yourself a with a nice average salary of £70,000.
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