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Identity Theft Jumps 57% as Fraudsters Target Social Media

The number of victims hit by identity theft jumped a hefty 57% last year, according to figures from fraud prevention service Cifas.

The firm’s research found that fraudsters are particularly targeting younger internet users with around 24,000 people aged 30 and under suffering identity fraud in 2015, up from 15,766 in 2014 and more than double the 11,000 victims in this age bracket in 2010.

Identity fraud commonly occurs as a result of a cyber-criminal masquerading as an innocent individual and buying products or taking out loans in their name, with victims often completely oblivious to the fact they have been targeted until they receive a bill or have problems with their credit rating.

To be successful, fraudsters need to gain access to personal information such as name, date of birth, address, and bank details which they then use to piece together someone’s identity. Whilst they do this in a variety of ways, social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (to name just a few) are proving to be common hunting grounds for identity thieves to gather the data they need, with Cifas stating that 86% of all identity frauds last year were carried out online.

When you take into account just how many young internet users are on social media these days, it comes as no great surprise that identity fraud has seen such a leap in the 30 and under age group.

"Social media sites are a goldmine of information for those with malicious intent,” said John Lord, managing director at identity data intelligence firm GBG. “Your name, your first school and even your mother's maiden name are now just a few clicks away for a fraudster. We all have a responsibility in preventing incidents of fraud, and for the user, thinking about what information you want to be publicly available is a good start. However, once that information has been compromised, what then?”

In the first instance, continued Lord, identity thieves will use the real identity of an individual and thereafter, create synthetic identities compiled from elements of the data stolen from a user. Taking a ‘sledgehammer’ approach to blocking the original identity to avoid the identity theft is often a waste of time as fraudulent activity usually only happens for less than a month after the crime has occurred.

“Organizations, therefore, need to use more data, analytical insights and triangulation of multiple identity proofing techniques when identity theft occurs, to minimize the effects for both the user and the businesses serving them,” he added.

GBG has provided consumers the following three top tips on how to keep their personal identities safe:

•    Think before you share: Is your Facebook profile private? Always be mindful about what you post online as it can be easy for a fraudster to piece together different pieces of information from multiple websites.

•    Be vigilant: Are you aware of where your address, phone number or date of birth are stored online? Do you keep track of where you put in your bank details? Knowing where your information resides is crucial. If you’re in doubt, ask an organization what it is actually doing with your data.

•    Make sure you know who you are speaking to: Don’t just think about online activity; is that telephone call really from your bank or is it another scam? Your identity opens a lot of doors for fraudsters and closes plenty more for you. From losing money to being turned down for a mortgage, the consequences can be disastrous. Remember your identity is priceless!

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