The number of victims of identity theft rose by 57% last year, according to a report out today from fraud prevention service Cifas. It said that there were more than 148,000 victims in the UK in 2015, compared with 94,500 in 2014. Cifas also suggested that social media sites had become a “hunting ground” for identity thieves. Information shared on these sites has allowed fraudsters to assume the identity of others by easily compiling personal information such as name, date of birth, address and bank details. This is thought to be behind the rise in identity fraud amongst the young (those 30 and under), which has more than doubled since 2010.
Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of Cifas said: “The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites – they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves. We are urging people to check their privacy settings today and think twice about what they share. Social media is fantastic and the way we live our lives online gives us huge opportunities. Taking a few simple steps will help us to enjoy the benefits while reducing the risks. To a fraudster, the information we put online is a goldmine.”
Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from identity theft online:
Phishing scams – this is where fraudsters disguise themselves as working for a legitimate company and email you asking for sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details. Best practice is to keep your email address as private as possible. You can also forward suspicious emails back to the company it purported to come from e.g. phishing@<companyname>.co.uk. Avoid clicking on any links or opening any attachments on these emails and delete them from your inbox.
Setting ‘strong’ passwords is important to keep your online activity safe. They need to be difficult to guess (avoid using your child’s name or your date of birth) and include a mixture of upper and lower case characters, numbers and punctuation marks. A strong password should be at least 10 characters long and you should avoid using the same password for different accounts.
Take care with social media and restrict the amount of personal information you give away on such sites. Your real friends should already know where you live, your birthday and if you are going on holiday.
Regularly update your computer’s firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes. Up to 80% of cyber threats can be removed just by doing this.
Check your home insurance. Some home insurance policies have an element of identity theft protection and this may be worth discussing with your local A-Plan branch.