Unfortunately, identity fraud is on the rise.
In 2015, the number of identity fraud victims rose by 57% and the annual cost of identity fraud in the UK is now over £193 billion. That works out to around £3,000 for every person in the UK!
85% of that fraud took place online. And most of that didn’t involve hacking or forcibly entering people’s accounts.
Instead, identity fraudsters have taken advantage of our tendency to share personal information on social media (things like where we live, where we work and the names of our children) and have used this to assume our identities and steal our money.
Simon Dukes, the Chief Executive of Cifas, a fraud prevention organisation, said: ‘Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details instead.
Society, government and industry all have a role in preventing fraud. However, our concern is that the lack of awareness about identity fraud is making it even easier for fraudsters to obtain the information they need.’
That’s why it’s important to stay safe online – and here are 7 little changes you can make to reduce the risk of being a victim of identity fraud.
Bamboo’s top tips for preventing online identity fraud
1. Think about what you post online
Identity thieves try to collect as much information about you as possible before they try to steal your money – that’s why it’s important to keep your sharing of personal information online to a minimum. Try not to post things that reveal your child’s name or birthday, your address or where you work. It’s easier said than done, but it gives identity thieves less to work with and makes you a much harder target.
2. Don’t accept friend request on Facebook from people you don’t know
This allows people access to your post history, photos and information – which they could use to mimic and steal your identity. Play it safe. If you’re in doubt, don’t accept them.
3. Be aware of phishing scams
As the BBC warn:
‘beware of “phishing” scams, including fake friend requests and posts from individuals or companies inviting you to visit other pages or sites.’
4. Check your privacy settings
In Facebook’s privacy settings, you can control who sees every aspect of your profile – from your age, location and interests to your photos and Timeline Posts. Use this to your advantage and make your profile private to keep identity thieves away from your personal information.
5. Use multiple passwords
It’s difficult to remember lots of passwords, we know. But using one password for everything – especially if it’s a weak password (one contains your child’s name or birthday), for instance – makes you vulnerable to identity fraud. If you want to stay safe but are a bit forgetful, why not try 1Password? It lets you stay protected without a spreadsheet full of different passwords.
6. Look for https:// when you visit a website
If you’re going to pay for something online, check for the ‘s’ after http in the address bar (or look for the padlock logo). It stands for security and means that the site has passed security tests and will keep your data and information safe. If there’s no s, don’t use it.
7. Trust your instincts
If something doesn’t feel right, leave. And if you get an email that sounds official but asks for a lot of information, ignore it and report it. If you’re being asked lots of personal information by somebody you don’t know, don’t answer. And remember, banks will never ever ask for your information via email. Even if it looks official, it probably isn’t (but ring the bank, just to check).
If you’re looking for more information about online safety and protecting yourself against identity fraud (or any kind of fraud, for that matter) check out Get Safe Online. It’s full of great information about everything from low-level phishing scams to keeping children safe online.