During 2018, the number of people under the age of 21 falling victim to identity fraud increased by a whopping 24% – a new peak for the UK, according to Cifas.
Young people acting as ‘money mules’ also became a bigger problem, growing by 26% during the first 9 months of the year.
With fraud now a real risk for under-21s – both being the victim and the cause of it – the question ‘why is this happening?’ must be asked.
The under 21 identity fraud problem
Cifas believes that plastic payment cards are to blame for the rise in the number of youngsters falling victim to identity fraud. They reported a 79% increase in cases of fraud relating to bank, debit, credit and store cards among under-21s since 2017, meaning card fraud now accounts for 34% of all fraud reported by youngsters.
And this is perhaps unsurprising, given that card payments are continuing to grow in popularity. At the start of 2018, Creditcards.com predicted that by 2026, total card payments would hit 21.9 billion.
Younger generations are also known to be among the first to embrace new technologies, so as the payments industry moves away from cash, it’s not unrealistic to expect under-21s to be among the first to go cashless and rely more heavily on card and mobile payments. Whilst there are many benefits to paying in these ways, it does arguably increase your risk of falling victim to fraud.
The rise in young money mules
During the first 9 months of the year, 9,636 under-21s were identified by Cifas as money mules. This is when a person allows their bank account to be used to move money for criminals, which is a form of money laundering and caries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: “Many young people seem unaware of the risks they’re running and the consequences it can have not only for the individual concerned but for society as a whole.”
So what’s the solution?
According to Cifas, more education is needed to help stop under-21s falling victim to fraud or being a perpetrator of it. Mike Haley claims that youngsters often have no idea how to protect themselves and more needs to be done to raise awareness.
To help youngsters stay safe, we’ve popped together a series of top tips.
Learn to identify fraud
It’s important to know what fraud is, the different forms it can take and how you might be asked to be involved in it. You can see some of the threats out there here.
Remember, convenient doesn’t always mean safe
We’re all trying to make our lives easier, right? And often, this means doing things faster. For example, when downloading a new app, many of us don’t read the terms and conditions so we can use it quicker. However, this can leave us vulnerable. Take a little time to ensure you’re using apps, websites and email safely, and you may be able to avoid falling prey to fraudsters.
Use social the smart way
More of our details are online, thanks to the rise of social media. We pop sensitive data – such as our full names, date of birth and hometown – in our social media bios and we post about our routines. Unfortunately, this all serves to make things easier for fraudsters. To help stay safe, think about what you’re sharing on social and lock down your accounts, so only those you trust can see everything. Learn more and get extra tips here.
Think before you use your card
If you’re using your card, stop to ask yourself if it’s safe to do so. You should be particularly wary if you’re shopping from a website you’re not familiar with, if you’re using your card abroad or if you’re using a public cash machine (shield your pin and beware of signs it’s been tampered with, such as a loose pin pad, a bulky card slot, a loose or blocked card slot or a false front of the machine).
Protect your contactless card
One of the main risks of contactless cards is that someone could intercept information within the chip as you’re walking about. Luckily, there are things you can do to stop this happening, such as lining your wallet with foil. Find out more here.
Monitor for identity theft and fraud
Sometimes, even the most careful people fall victim to fraudsters. The trick is to keep an eye out for signs this may have happened. Your credit report is the perfect place to do this, as it will allow you to see any credit checks run against you and spot any new financial accounts that may have fraudulently been applied for in your name. Read ‘Identity theft, fraud and your credit report’ to see how you can monitor for identity theft and fraud.
We hope you find these tips useful, to find out more about another scam that we’re being warned to be vigilant about click here.