Identity fraud – why it matters and what to do about it

27 Nov 2015

Identity fraud happens when fraudsters steal an individual’s personal details and then apply for goods and services (such as mobile phones, bank loans and credit cards) in the victim’s name.

Everyone is at risk from identity fraud. In fact, young adults are the fastest growing age group targeted. Because so many of our day-to-day activities take place online – such as banking, shopping, dating, chatting with friends on social media –fraudsters are finding it easier to get the details they need to steal identities. Last year 82% of identity theft was perpetrated online.

It takes an average of 8 ½ days (your entire Reading Week) to sort out identity fraud and if you’ve lost money you may be out of pocket while the bank or company investigates.

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to identity theft. Below are some useful tips to get you started:

Making payments

  • Check websites are secure when making online purchases: you should see the padlock symbol and an ‘s’ in the ‘https://’ before the web address. And remember that things that seem too good to be true usually are – so if you are buying the latest iPhone for £39 and no conditions, then you’re probably not on a legitimate site. 
  • Avoid saving your card details on websites when paying for things: it might take a few extra seconds to re-input them each time, but it helps keep your card details secure.
  • Paying for something over the phone? If people can easily hear you, then your details are at risk – move away or wait until you’re alone.

Protecting you online

  • Ensure your password is unique and strong: keep your passwords complex by picking three random words, such as beachsuncocktail and add or split them with symbols, numbers and capitals:BeachSunC0ckta1l!.
  • 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: www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/free-anti-virus-software.
  • Put a PIN on your phone (and no, not 1234 or 0000). If your phone is lost or stolen, you’ll buy some time to change your email and social media passwords and alert your bank if you use mobile banking.  
  • When downloading apps, pay attention to the permissions they request to be installed. Do you want that retro Space Invaders game to be able to read and send text messages from your phone if you’re only going to play it twice?
  • Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.

Securing your Social Media

  • Beware what you share: Remove details like your date of birth, hometown and mother’s maiden name from your social media accounts. Its classic credit card application info and a fraudster could use it. If you can’t bear the thought of no-one knowing when your birthday is, take off your year of birth.
  • Don’t rely on default security settings for your social media profiles: Set your social media security settings as high as you can – you probably don’t want complete strangers viewing photographic evidence of your post-Freshers’ Week hangover anyway.

Additional Considerations

  • Live in a communal building like student halls, or have a communal entrance to your flat? Don’t leave your post with personal details lying around – you don’t know who could pick it up
  • 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.

For more nuggets of wisdom to keep the fraudsters at bay – and your student loan in your account – visit www.cifas.org.uk/stayunique

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