UK Identity Theft Crisis

Last year, an anti-fraud organization recorded a total 89,000 cases of identity theft in the UK over the first half of 2017. According to Cifas, the figure was a record high and represented a five percent increase in identity theft cases over the same period in the previous year. Cifas chief executive officer, Simon Dukes, said that the claims were increasing at an alarming rate over the years with a new high of about 500 stolen identities daily.

Identity theft is a booming business, particularly on the dark web. An ID thief collects adequate information about a person including their name, address, date of birth, and bank details. The information may be collected through illegal means such as hacking e-mails and social media accounts. The fraudster then uses the “new” identity to engage in unlawful activities or apply for loans and credit cards.

Cifas’ research statistics show that the hardest hit people are adults aged between 31 and 40 years. While the named group is the most likely to be victims of stolen identities, individuals between 21 and 30 years are increasingly being the next best targets for these fraudsters. However, identity theft cases among adults aged 60 and over have reduced significantly over the years.

According to Cifas, more than four in every five identity theft cases took place online. This number is attributed to the fact that most people have a digital footprint, and the sharing of personal information makes it very easy for a fraudster to obtain a victim’s data.

Cifas’ Advice to Companies

The non-profit organization advises firms offering financial services to stay alert to seemingly fraudulent customers. A significant percentage of the identity theft cases were recorded by victims who had allegedly applied for loans or took out insurance covers.

Companies should organize seminars and workshops to train their staff on standard cyber-security measures and techniques used by fraudsters. If a customer, whether online or offline, displays questionable behavior when seeking services, the staff member involved should be able to identify that customer and raise the alarm immediately.

Protecting Yourself Against Fraud

Cifas’ advice to individuals against possible identity theft includes carrying out frequent updates to your computer’s firewall, anti-viruses, and anti-spyware programs. The anti-fraud agency claims that these actions can cut online identity theft cases by over 80 percent.

You should also desist from sharing too much personal information on social media websites. PINs and passwords used in these sites as well as other vulnerable sites should not be shared with anyone, not even with friends. Cifas states that the PINs and passwords should frequently be changed, preferably every two to three months, to further improve on security. Also, use strong passwords with more than 10 characters and avoid using your personal data as your PIN. Instead, use a mix of punctuation marks, upper and lower case letters, and numbers to create a password.

Paper Shredding should be embraced especially by people who physically visit financial institutions. All receipts and other documents that contain personal details should be shredded before being thrown away.

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