CIFAS figures signal dangers of online ‘pickpockets’
Figures recorded by the private and public sector Members of CIFAS – the UK's Fraud Prevention Service underline the dangers of falling victim to identity fraud or an account takeover online, especially during the festive period.
During the past few years, fraud levels have historically increased during the festive season. Overall, fraud has increased by nearly 6% in 2012 compared with 2011, with additional factors giving rise for concern and warnings to consumers to be careful during the festive period:
§ Identity fraud (cases of false identities or where fraudsters use their victims’ names and details to obtain products and services) has increased by 10.5%.
§ Account takeover (where a third party hijacks the running of an account) has increased by 62%.
§ 86% of all identity frauds and 65% of all account takeovers are attempted online.
The scale of the problem
While the increases in identity fraud and account takeover fraud are notable enough, the fact that these frauds now account for 65% of all frauds identified by CIFAS Member organisations emphasises the severity of the problem. CIFAS Communications Manager, Richard Hurley, notes: “The fact that nearly two thirds of all fraud now relates to the misuse of identity details demonstrates how organisations and individuals alike must do everything to keep their details safe. Otherwise, we will effectively be allowing our wallets to be stolen by online pickpockets.”
Counteracting the online dangers
As the busiest shopping period of the year continues, consumers will be looking for bargains online. Fraudsters know this, however, so the prospect of getting a nasty surprise rather than a bargain must never be forgotten. Fraudulent websites will frequently entice shoppers with offers that seem too good to be true and what must be remembered is that, if this is the case, it probably is not true! Such sites will either be offering fake goods, no goods at all, or simply be looking for your card and address details in order to try and hijack your accounts or impersonate you.
Richard Hurley notes that there are simple steps to that people can take to help protect themselves: “Always begin with a few common sense steps and questions: do you recognise the seller? Have they got a registered address and returns policy? Have you searched the full address online to see if others have had bad experiences with the seller? Also look out for https: at the start of any web address (this shows that the server is secure when making payments) and ensure you have full anti-virus software installed before using the internet. Above all else though, if you are in doubt, chuck that website out: don’t use it!”
The mobile danger
With smartphones offering a new level of convenience, consumers must also be aware of the dangers that can be present when using their devices to bank or purchase goods. Using public access wi-fi to conduct transactions or make purchases and not encrypting data or passwords on a handset are just two things that are easily forgotten by users that can leave people vulnerable to the interception or theft of details.”
Richard Hurley concludes: “The ease of carrying out transactions online – from a computer or smartphone – is not something that consumers would wish to lose. Being aware that there are dangers, however, and taking simple steps to counteract them are essential if we do not wish to become victims of fraud. As crooks and petty thieves are to be found where there are crowds, consumers must remember that the sheer popularity of the internet means that online thieves will be found there. By taking some simple precautions, consumers can go a long way to ensure that they will not be receiving unwanted attention this Christmas.”