Identity fraud has hit the highest levels ever with 172,919 identity frauds recorded in 2016, more than in any other previous year. The study by Cifas showed that identity fraud now represents over half of all fraud recorded in the United Kingdom (53.3%), of which 88% was 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 successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, their bank and who 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.
We have seen growing numbers of young people falling victim in recent years and this upward trend continued in 2016 with almost 25,000 victims under 30. In particular we saw a 34% increase in under 21s, and therefore Cifas is again calling for better education around fraud and financial crime and urging young people to be vigilant about protecting their personal data.
2016 also saw increases in victims aged over 40, with 1,869 more victims recorded by Cifas members.
Mike Haley, Deputy Chief Executive, Cifas said: “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. There are three simple steps that anyone can take to protect themselves: use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted on your devices; and avoid using public wi-fi for banking and online shopping.
“We all remember to protect our possessions through locking our house or flat or car but we don’t take the same care to protect our most important asset – our identities. We all need to take responsibility to secure our mail boxes, shred our important documents like bank statements and utility bills, and take sensible precautions online – otherwise we are making ourselves a target for the identity fraudster.”
Commander Chris Greany, National co-ordinator for economic crime said: “With close to half of all crime now either fraud or cyber crime we all need to make sure we protect our identity. Identity fraud is the key to unlocking your valuables. Things like weak passwords or not updating your software are the same as leaving a window or door unlocked."
It is these same measures to improve cyber security that the Business Continuity Institute is trying to highlight as part of its Business Continuity Awareness Week campaign. There are simple steps that individuals can take to improve cyber security within our organizations, as well as our personal lives. They may not make our networks completely secure, but at least they make a cyber security incident more of a challenge for the perpetrator, rather than leaving the door wide open for them.