Reports of identity theft reached their highest levels yet in 2016, says fraud prevention organisation Cifas.
They have warned that young people are a growing target for fraudsters, with the number of victims aged under-21 rising by a third from the previous year.
There were 172,919 incidents of identity theft last year, representing 53.3% of all fraud recorded by Cifas – 88% of which occurred online. Almost 25,000 victims of fraud were aged under 30.
Identity fraud takes place when thieves gather enough information on an individual to take out loans and credit cards or make purchases in their name. This information may be obtained by stealing a bill or mail, exploiting personal information shared on social media, computer hacking, or tricking victims into sharing information by pretending to be the bank or police.
Why are young people being targeted in particular?
Younger people are the biggest users of social media. The amount of personal information shared online by young people, such as addresses and birthdays, is a growing concern.
City of London Police Commander, and national coordinator for economic crime, Chris Greany said: “With close to half of all crime now either fraud or cyber crime we all need to make sure we protect our identity.
“Identity fraud is the key to unlocking your valuables. Things like weak passwords or not updating your software are the same as leaving a window or door unlocked.”
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Shred important paper documents before you throw them away
- Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media. Be particularly wary of sharing your address
- Use secure passwords: aim for 8+ characters with a mix of lower and upper case letters, numbers and punctuation marks, and avoid using a guessable word or birthday
- Create a different password for every account
- Password-protect your smartphone in case you misplace it
- Never share passwords or PIN number with others
- Update your computer’s firewall and anti-virus software regularly
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