According to a research published on March 15 by fraud prevention organization Cifas, young people are a growing target for identity theft cases, which reached record levels in the year of 2016.

Bank cards

Bank cards

Identity fraud cases started to appear about 13 years ago, however, the number of instances reached record levels in 2016. According to statistics from 277 banks and businesses, almost 173,000 fraud cases were recorded in 2016. Additionally, almost 25,000 fraud victims were aged under 30, and the number of victims under the age of 21 rose by a third.

The 172,919 incidents of identity fraud last year represents 53.3% of all fraud recorded by Cifas, of which 88% occurred online. The number of victims under the age of 21 increased from 1,345 to 1,803 from 2015 to 2016.

According to the fraud prevention organization, people should be “more vigilant” about protecting their own data. Additionally, Mike Haley, deputy chief executive at Cifas, said that better education for fraud and other forms of financial crimes was needed.

“These new figures show that identity fraud continues to be the number one fraud threat. With nine out of ten identity frauds committed online and with all age groups at risk, we are urging everyone to make it more difficult for fraudsters to abuse their identity. There are three simple steps that anyone can take to protect themselves: use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted on your devices; and avoid using public wi-fi for banking and online shopping,” Haley said.

City of London Police Commander Chris Greany, who is the national coordinator for economic crime, is sharing the same opinion as Haley. According to him, since cybercrime and fraud cases are growing, citizens should make sure to protect their identities.

“We have known for some time that identity fraud has become the engine that drives much of today’s criminality and so it is vitally important that people keep their personal information safe and secure. 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,” Greany said in a statement.

According to Cifas, the vast majority of identity fraud takes place when a hacker pretends to be an individual, and, for example, buys a product or takes a loan using the victim’s details. Fraudsters acquire the necessary personal information by stealing mail, computer hacking (including phishing emails), obtaining data on dark net marketplaces and forums, and exploiting personal information on social media. Criminals also use social engineering for extorting personal details from victims. They reach the victims on social media websites and pose as somebody from their bank, retailer, or from authorities.

“We all remember to protect our possessions through locking our house or flat or car but we don’t take the same care to protect our most important asset – our identities. We all need to take responsibility to secure our mailboxes, shred our important documents like bank statements and utility bills, and take sensible precautions online – otherwise, we are making ourselves a target for the identity fraudster,” Haley said. In addition to deputy chief executive’s statement, Cifas recommends other safety measures to consumers:

“Set your privacy settings across all the social media channels you use. And just think twice before you share details – in particular, your full date of birth, your address, contacts details – all this information can be useful to fraudsters!”

“Password protect your devices. Keep your passwords complex by picking three random words, such as roverducklemon and add or split them with symbols, numbers, and capitals:R0v3rDuckLemon!.”

“Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date. MoneySavingExpert have a recommended list of the best free anti-virus software:”

“Take care on public wi-fi – fraudsters hack them or mimic them. If you’re using one, avoid accessing sensitive apps such as mobile banking.”

“Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.”

The fraud prevention organization also warns people about protecting offline information too. According to Cifas, consumers should always redirect mail when they leave their homes and should make sure that their mailboxes are secure.

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