Identity theft soars with over 80% of all attempts online
Written on 1 June 2015
Identity fraud rose sharply in the first quarter of 2015 and now accounts for around half of all fraud crimes*, according to latest figures.
The number of people who fell victim to identity theft rose by almost a third (31%) to 32,058 in the first quarter of 2015, according to CIFAS, the fraud prevention service. The most common form of identity theft is stealing people’s credit card and bank account details.
Identity fraud or theft is when your personal details are stolen and used to illegally buy products and services, obtain documents (such as passports and driving licences) or open bank accounts and credit cards and so on in your name. It can lead to you ending up with thousands of pounds of debts in your name or with a poor credit record.
Online identity theft
Over 80% of all identity fraud was attempted or occurred online. And the average age of victims is 46 years old although young people aged between 21 and 30 are increasingly being targeted, says CIFAS.
Chief Superintendent Dave Clark, from the City of London Police, said: "Identity fraud is at the heart of much of today’s criminality... To stop this from happening we must all take responsibility for protecting our personal information, especially when working and playing online. By following some simple procedures, such as creating strong passwords, protecting internet connected devices with up-to-date security software and not sharing too much personal information online, we can make life much more difficult for the identity fraudsters.”
How to protect yourself against identity theft
There are various things you can do to try and protect yourself against identity theft, says Action Fraud including the following:
- Don't throw away any documents which have your name, address or financial details on them - shred them instead.
- Check your bank and credit card statements and report anything which looks suspicious.
- Don’t give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
- Banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. If you get an email like this it will not be genuine. You can always call your bank using the phone number on a genuine piece of correspondence, website (typed directly into the address bar) or in the phone book if you’re not sure.
- If you don't receive a bank or credit card statement you are expecting, report it to your provider.
- Check your credit file with the three credit reference agencies, Callcredit, Equifax and Experian, to make sure there are no entries you cannot account for.
- Make sure your computer has up to date anti-virus software and a firewall installed.
- Don't ignore bills, invoices or receipts for things you haven't bought or services you haven't asked for - contact the company immediately.
If you’d like more advice on fraud you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
* Figures from CIFAS on https://www.cifas.org.uk/id_fraud_first_quarter