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

03 Sep 2015

Identity fraud happens when fraudsters steal 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 – not just people who are well-off. 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. Some simple tips to get you started are:

  • Remove your date of birth and hometown from your social media accounts. Its classic credit card application info and a fraudster will use it. If you can’t bear the thought of no-one knowing when your birthday is, take off your year of birth.
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • 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. 
  • 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?

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

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