Identity theft rises by more than 30%

padlockIdentity theft is a growing problem that everybody needs to take much more seriously. A recent report by a leading fraud prevention agency has revealed the number of victims of identity theft rose by nearly a third in the first quarter of 2015. If the trend continues it’s estimated that more than 128,000 Britons will have their identity stolen by the end of the year.Identity theft involves the illegal use of personal information in order to impersonate another for financial gain. The consequences of identity theft can be catastrophic and unwitting victims can be left traumatised and held responsible for fraudulent financial transactions.

The report found that the vast majority (over 80%) of identity theft was being carried out online, with the lions’ share of stolen identities being used to apply for credit or set-up bogus bank accounts.

Personal information which falls into the wrong hands often ends up being traded online in ‘fraud forums’. Buried deep in the darkest corners of the web ‘fraud forums’ provide a safe place for criminals to meet and swap tricks of the trade. Personal details are sold for peanuts and genuine credit cards (with a matching date of birth) go for as little as £5.00.

Cyber criminals are getting smarter at tracking ‘digital’ footprints and anyone who goes online is a potential target. However, it’s worth remembering there are plenty of ‘analogue’ fraudsters using tried and tested techniques to steal your identity. Take the following steps to make sure that nobody gets their hands on your identity:

  • Don’t put any personal documents in the recycling bin unless they have been shredded.
  • Computer passwords should contain a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Change computer passwords regularly and don’t be tempted to use the same password twice.
  • Invest in a robust computer security package and make sure it’s regularly updated.
  • Don’t ‘over share’ on social sites; your real friends already know your birthday.
  • When shopping online make sure the site is secure (displaying https:// in the address bar) before submitting your payment details.
  • Be wary of ‘cold callers’ requesting personal information; even in ‘emergency’ situations.
  • Regularly check your bank statements for any suspicious activity.

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