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Identity Fraud Reaches Epic Proportions in UK

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Identity Fraud Reaches Epic Proportions in UK

March 30, 2017
By Laura Stotler TMCnet Contributing Editor

The U.K. is undergoing an identity fraud crisis, with instances reaching record-breaking proportions last year. A new report from CIfas, a data sharing and prevention agency, reveals 172,919 cases of identity fraud were recorded in 2016, accounting for more than half of all fraud in the U.K. And a whopping 88 percent of total fraud occurred online, pointing to some grave issues surrounding Internet security and privacy.

The Cifas data shows that fraudsters are using online hacking to access consumers’ identifying data as well as purchasing it on the “Dark Web.” They then exploit the information on social media or use social engineering techniques to fool people into giving up info by pretending to be a trusted business, colleague or friend. Unfortunately, victims often don’t realize the fraud has taken place until they receive a bill for something they didn’t purchase or undergo trouble with their credit rating.

Interestingly, young people are being increasingly targeted by hackers and fraudsters, and nearly 25,000 of last year’s victims were under the age of 30. Cifas reported a 34-percent increase in identity fraud for those under 21 and there were also increases in victims over age 40.

“With nine out of 10 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,” said Mike Haley, deputy chief executive at Cifas. He recommends using strong passwords, downloading software updates when prompted by devices, and avoiding public Wi-Fi for banking and online shopping as the three most important steps to avoiding identity fraud.

The problem of identity fraud is of course not isolated to the U.K., and is becoming an increasing issue in the U.S. According to Symantec (News - Alert), more than one-third of Americans and more than 650 million people worldwide were the victims of cybercrime last year, creating a $10 billion market for cyber fraud.

“With close to half of all crime now either fraud or cybercrime, we all need to make sure we protect our identity,” said Chris Greany, commander for the City of London. “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.”

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