Identity fraud continues to rise with four million victims in UK alone - Yet consumers continue to be complacent with their identities
National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, which starts on Monday 17 October, is a nationwide effort to help in the battle against identity fraud. It is co-ordinated by the National Fraud Authority and supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
According to research, although 95 per cent of the UK population are now aware of the threat and risks of identity fraud, the number of victims is still rising as people continue to be careless with their identities. Seven per cent of the UK population have been victims of identity fraud, equating to more than four million people. The average cost of these incidents to each victim is £1,190, but some individuals have lost up to £9,000.
Statistics from CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, reported that the number of identity fraud cases declared to the authorities in the UK continue to rise, with more than 80,000 reported in the UK so far this year. Research shows us that as the risk is rising, UK citizens are not taking enough care of their personal details:
- A quarter of us (25 per cent) are still not taking simple yet key precautions such as shredding bills and bank statements before putting them in the bin
- Only 57 per cent of those surveyed verify emails or calls from organisations before responding
- 46 per cent wouldn’t report a lost driving license or passport straight away
- 59 per cent do not follow up when mail fails to arrive and just 13% regularly check their credit rating
- Encouragingly, 83 per cent of the UK public check for unfamiliar transactions on bills and statements and 86 per cent have security software on their home computer so in some areas consumers are being more vigilant
Complacency extends to online activities as well, with 88 per cent of people who use social networking sites having shared information that could be used to commit identity fraud such as their address or date of birth. Furthermore, only 18 per cent of those interviewed said they were concerned about sharing information on or the security risk of social networking sites, with 10 per cent sharing information about others that could then be used to assume their identities.
When it comes to identity fraud, prevention is always key. Some easy ways for individuals to protect themselves include:
- Always checking for unfamiliar transactions on bank statements
- Shredding all documents containing sensitive information using a cross cut shredder before throwing them away
- Looking into mail that goes missing
- Carrying out regular personal credit report checks
- Redirecting post for at least six months when moving house
- Limiting the amount of information shared when using social networking sites
Jamey Johnson, Head of Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting and advice centre, said:
Stealing an identity is just the beginning for a fraudster. With few details, accounts can be taken over, loans can be applied for and purchases can be made, all without the consent or knowledge of the individual, potentially costing the victim substantial sums of money. Last month alone (September) Action Fraud saw over £245,000 worth of loss due to identity theft. The worrying part is that this figure was generated from a limited amount of reports, suggesting the amount lost to ID theft would be much higher if more people were reporting.
It is important to report a loss to Action Fraud, but it is more important to protect yourself from it happening in the first place. Limiting access to your personal information is the key to safety from ID fraud. Remember, personal details are as valuable as cash to a fraudster.
A special website, www.stop-idfraud.co.uk offers a range of resources to help you, whether you are a consumer or a business person, to avoid the costly and debilitating effects of this crime.