Scale of identity crime underlines need to protect yourself warns CIFAS
The most recent figures from CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service reveals the alarming rate at which identity details are abused by fraudsters. Two out of every three frauds in the first half of 2013 were either identity fraud (where fraudsters use personal data to obtain new products and services in someone else’s name) or account takeover fraud (where existing account data is used to hijack the running of someone’s account). In light of this, CIFAS is warning individuals that every possible precaution must be taken to protect valuable personal details.
The need to keep yourself safe
CIFAS Communications Manager, Richard Hurley, comments: “While it is vitally important that all organisations protect the data that they hold, and do all that they can to prevent fraud (from using the latest technologies to better use of data), individuals also have a vital role to play in keeping data safe. From adopting good practice in terms of online security (keeping firewalls and anti-virus programmes fully updated), to making sure that information is not needlessly divulged, we all can offer the first line of defence against fraudsters.”
Some useful tips
You can reduce the risk of your details falling into criminal hands by keeping your personal details to yourself. Here are some tips:
* Treat your personal details as you would a valuable item: as something to be looked after.
* If you use social networking sites, limit the amount of information you give away and activate tough privacy settings.
* Only enter your personal details into secure websites belonging to organisations you know and trust.
* Make sure your computer has an up-to-date firewall and is protected by anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes.
* Beware of emails 'phishing' for personal details - these often direct you to realistic-looking sites designed to steal details.
* Never share your passwords or PIN numbers with other people.
* Don’t give unsolicited callers any personal or financial details over the telephone. End the calls and call organisations yourself to check that the call was genuine.
* If you move home, make sure that you take all steps to ensure the security of your mail.
* Shred any documents that contain your information before you throw them away.
* If items such as passports, statements, chequebooks and driving licences are lost, or statements do not arrive, report it immediately and look to change account details where possible.
Further tips on keeping yourself safe can be found online at: www.cifas.org.uk/avoidbeinga_victim
Taking preventative action to avoid falling victim
Being aware of the possibility of falling victim to fraud also involves understanding that, when things happen such as the theft or loss of documents, some criminals will use these to commit fraud. CIFAS offers a service called Protective Registration that can help to protect those who might be vulnerable to fraud by entering a record onto the CIFAS database that alerts CIFAS organisations to an individual’s increased risk of falling victim to identity fraudsters. This allows organisations to run increased checks to verify that any new applications are made by the individual and not by a fraudster.
One example of how it has helped is Ms N of Cardiff, who lost her handbag during a night out with friends. It contained her driving licence, credit card, credit card statement and her council tax bill. After frantic calls to the places she had been and the taxi firm that she had used, she rang to report the loss of these items to the relevant organisations. One of these suggested that she might want to consider Protective Registration. Ms N registered by telephone with CIFAS and, during the following three months, the thieves tried to obtain one store card, a bank credit card and a cheque account. All were refused thanks to the Protective Registration.
Richard Hurley concludes: “Organisations must always play their part, and CIFAS always calls for them to invest in strong preventative measures to combat fraud. But there is much that individuals themselves can do to help. By treating data like an item to be guarded, and by exercising due caution and following best practice, people can really add an extra barrier against the fraudster and against falling victim to today’s identity fraudsters.”