New figures recorded by Cifas, a fraud prevention service reveal that identity fraud in the UK has reached ‘epidemic’ levels as almost 190,000 cases were reported in the last 12 months.
This is an increase of 8% compared to last year. The reported reveals that cases of identity fraud for the over 60’s had a massive increase of 34% to 33,000.
Personal finance analyst at the investment platform AJ Bell, Laura Suter, said: ‘Identity fraud is now an epidemic across the UK.
‘More people are scammed by increasingly savvy fraudsters using more sophisticated means. But people are also willingly publishing their life details on social media, making these sites rich pickings. We need to make sure we’re savvy with our details online, particularly older age groups who might be newer to using the internet.’
Getting the information needed
Only a few pieces of information are needed by people in order to use a person’s identity. Then they can do things such as opening a bank account, taking out loans, build a fake social media identity and access various accounts.
Cyber thieves could even apply for a passport or driving licence with a person’s details. This could result in leaving high levels of damage to credit ratings and finances, as well as the obvious stress that comes with the aftermath of identity fraud.
The details people need for identity theft can be as simple as a birthdate, address and even just a name. Most of this information is available widely to those looking for it with social media thought to be the biggest hub of easy to attain information.
Sometimes, even if a personal address is unavailable, it is not hard to track one down once a date of birth and name have been established. A trial and error process then allow for identity thieves to keep on re-trying when it comes to applying for what they are wanting to gain (like credit cards).
Who does cyber-crime affect?
There is no demographic that isn’t targeted by identity theft.
People are usually made aware that they have faced criminal fraud when they see some abnormalities on their credit.
Those most at risk were thought to be people under the age of 21 and over the age of 60 with experts believing the latter is being due to the rise in approval for credit.
In figures that Cifas have claimed to ‘paint an alarming picture’, the most common type of fraud is now through the application of credit cards. Which according to the report, had an increase of 41% to 82,608 reports compared to last year.
The Cifas report also spoke of the increase of money laundering and using ‘mule accounts’ to transfer money. This had risen by 26% in the latest review to 40,000 cases reported by banks.
Although these movements were often done through students, Cifas reported a rise in the over 40’s taking part in this behaviour.
Fighting cyber-crime with biometrics.
Brett Beranek, vice president & general manager, security & biometrics line of business at Nuance Communications, argues that to minimise the threat of fraud, firms need to turn to biometrics.
“Fraud is a huge issue today – both for people’s personal privacy and security, but also in terms of its impact on the economy. Research has found that fraud costs the UK economy over £100bn per year, demonstrating how much work still needs to be done to minimise the threat.
“By deploying tech such as biometrics, companies have prevented over £1bn worth of customers’ money from getting into the wrong hands.”
He continued: “When firms store knowledge credentials, such as passwords, in a centralised database, massive security breaches, where millions of accounts get compromised are more likely. Biometrics offers a way out of this security vulnerability by storing biometric characteristics rather than the credential itself, eliminating the possibility of a massive security breach. We could eliminate these massive hacks entirely. It’s high-time that organisations address this issue once and for all.”
How to prevent online identity theft.
Luckily, the prevention of identity theft is very easy. It can be done by:
- Setting social media accounts to ‘private’
- Not publishing personal information, like DOB, maiden name or address where people can easily find it
- Having an up-to-date antivirus on the computer
- Using different passwords for different accounts to make it harder for hackers to break in.
It is important to make sure that this information is not available offline, too, by:
- Shredding letters and bills
- Making sure that the Royal Mail are re-directing post if a person moves home
- Being wary of phone calls that ask for personal information, especially of those claiming to be banks.
Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas, said: “From identity theft to using the young and naive as money mules, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing.”