Identity fraud at highest level ever: What does this really mean for you?

Last year identity fraud reached the highest level ever recorded, according to Cifas’ ‘Fraudscape 2017’ report, which came out last month.

Almost 173,000 cases were reported by organisations to Cifas, painting a picture of the ever growing threat of identity theft and fraud in the UK. This represents a 1.2% increase in overall fraud reported to the database.

Fraud continues to happen most often online, with 88% of identity frauds happening over the internet. However, instances of telephone fraud are on the up. In fact, fraudsters using the phone to stage bank account takeovers now represents 50% of all bank account fraud.

Fraud rising, so what?

With so many stories in the news about new data breaches or hacks, you can be forgiven for being a bit underwhelmed by fraud statistics. When it comes to online fraud, lots of people now have something called cyber fatigue, which is the feeling of being overwhelmed by and tired of the barrage of cyber security warnings. Essentially, we’re all a bit desensitised to it all and it can be hard to see what rising levels of fraud actually mean for you.

Unfortunately, the risk of being cyber fatigued is that you end up doing nothing at all and as a result leave yourself more vulnerable to attack than ever. The reality is that:-

  • One in 10 people fall victim to online fraud[1]
  • There are estimated to be 3.6 million cases of fraud a year[2]
  • In 2016 the total cost of fraud in the UK reached £1.1 billion for the first time since 2011[3]

With fraud becoming more and more common, you can’t afford to leave your safety to chance. After all, if you fall victim to fraud you could experience:-

  • Financial loss
  • Stress
  • A reduced credit score and difficulty obtaining credit

The recent figures from Cifas are a stark reminder to be more vigilant and make sure you do everything you can to keep yourself safe, especially when online, as this is where most fraud happens.

Simple ways to stay safe

  • Check your credit report regularly to ensure no lines of credit have fraudulently been taken out in your name. You should also check for searches you don’t recognise and if they seem suspicious, speak to the organisation who ran it. However, first check that the name isn’t the name of a parent company of a business you expected to run a search.
  • Don’t use the same password for everything, because if a fraudster gets the password to one account, they can then access them all. Luckily you don’t have to worry about remember lots of different passwords if you use a password manager, which stores and organises your passwords in a secure way by encrypting them.
  • Use a passphrase filled with capital letters, numbers and special characters, as these are much harder to crack. An example might be ‘I have 2 dogs and a cat’, which can be shortened to ‘Ihv2Ds&1Ct!’.
  • Automate software and app updates, as well as virus scans, to keep your devices protected.
  • Lock down social media accounts to prevent fraudsters from getting hold of your personal details. You might not realise it but things you like on sites like Facebook, as well as information such as when your birthday is, is valuable to criminals looking to steal your identity.
  • Be suspicious of unexpected emails and think before your click. Criminals can include viruses in emails, as well as messages designed to get you to share your details with them.
  • Be suspicious of unexpected phone calls. If you receive a call from someone you don’t know and they ask for any personal details, always refuse.
  • Shred all correspondence you throw away to ensure fraudsters can’t get their hands on them.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingdec2016

[2] Ibid

[3] https://home.kpmg.com/uk/en/home/insights/2015/12/fraud-barometer.html