By Lisa Hardstaff, credit information expert at Equifax
We use personal information all the time, probably without even a second thought. With more and more people doing their shopping online – which could make people more vulnerable to identity fraud, credit information expert Lisa Hardstaff, has a few useful tips for how to protect personal information.
Over the last few months a number of companies have suffered significant attacks from cyber criminals, leaving consumers worried about the security of their personal details. Whether it is entering a DOB when signing up to a new online brand, to telling Facebook friends about a new pet or your latest holiday, the internet is a hive of personal information. But are we all taking the right precautions when it comes to keeping our personal data safe?
You might not think ID fraud could ever happen to you – but according to data from the UK fraud prevention service, CIFAS*, in the first quarter of 2015 over 80% of all identity fraud was attempted or perpetrated online. There were 34,151 confirmed instances of identity fraud, a 27% increase compared to the same period in 2014. Probably most worrying of all for Mutton Club readers is that the average age of a female identity fraud victim is 46 years.
It is therefore important that sensible steps are taken to reduce the risk of identity theft.
What happens to hacked information?
It can take as little as three pieces of personal information for a fraudster to start to be able to steal an identity. They can start by opening accounts in your name, which is bad enough. But they can also target victims with more sophisticated email and phone scams, which may trick an individual into giving them access to even more personal information.
So it’s important to think about what information you share with other people and organisations.
Forty-something women are prime targets for scammers
It’s easy to think it won’t happen to you, but the latest figures show us a different story. According to CIFAS, middle aged, financially comfortable consumers who may not need to apply for new credit very often, may actually be ideal targets for ID thieves.
Whilst these individuals probably already check their monthly bank and credit card statements, fraudulent spending on existing accounts isn’t the only way that ID fraudsters work. Opening new accounts in an innocent victim’s name is also a prime tactic for fraudsters.
Equifax research** shows that 11% of women we surveyed keep their passwords and bank details (excluding PIN) on their phone. When it comes to online banking, 36% of women say they check their balance, using their smartphone, whilst 25% will transfer money between personal accounts and 23% transfer money to people they know.
When asked where they do their online banking using their mobile device, 39% of women said they access banking services anywhere, whenever they need to. Reassuringly, 40% only access their online banking at home, offering them added protection via secure broadband or home Wi-Fi connections.
Our figures show that 39% of women we surveyed use the same password for more than one account, including online shopping websites. This leaves them very vulnerable should a site be hacked.
Prevention is better than cure
Despite sustained campaigns by government, consumer bodies and other organisations, it appears that some consumers continue to be reckless with their personal information, perhaps not realising just how little fraudsters need to take control of their accounts, or to apply for credit and make purchases using their details.
We always urge consumers to treat their personal data as carefully as they would cash. Fraudsters need only a few pieces of information to begin fraudulent activity, so it’s crucial to be vigilant – and that includes keeping an eye on credit information for any changes or unauthorised account openings.
How to protect personal information
Fraud by type
Identity Fraud – applications for products or services made using the stolen identity of an innocent victim, or an entirely fictitious identity.
Facility Takeover Fraud also known as Account Takeover – where a person (facility hijacker) unlawfully obtains access to the details of the ‘Victim of Takeover’, namely an existing account holder or policy holder, and fraudulently operates the account or policy for his or her (or someone else’s) benefit
Application Fraud – Applications for products or services with material falsehoods (lies) or false supporting documentation (where the name provided has not been identified as false)
Misuse of Facility Fraud – the fraudulent use of an account, policy or some other facility e.g. paying in an altered cheque or knowingly making a payment that is going to bounce/be declined.
Asset Conversion – the unlawful sale of an asset subject to a credit agreement where the lender retains ownership of the asset (for example, a car or lorry)
False Insurance Claims – when an insurance claim, or supporting documentation, contains material falsehoods (lies)
You may also like: How To Prevent Identity Thefts – Top Tips
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Lisa Hardstaff, is the credit information expert at Equifax, one of the UK’s credit information providers.
* The CIFAS Fraudscape report, published in March 2015.
** Independent survey of 1000 people across the UK conducted over the weekend of 14th November 2015 by Gorkana Surveys.