Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has issued new figures showing that identity fraud has hit the highest levels ever recorded. A record 172,919 episodes of such fraud were noted in 2016. Identity fraud now represents over half of all fraud chronicled by the UK’s not-for-profit fraud data sharing organisation, of which 88% was perpetrated online.
In recent years, Cifas has been informed of growing numbers of young people falling victim to ID fraud. That upward trend continued last year with almost 25,000 victims aged under 30. In particular, there has been a 34% increase in the number of under 21s subjected to ID fraud. On that basis, Cifas is again calling for better education around fraud and financial crime and urging youngsters to be vigilant about protecting their personal data.
2016 also saw a rise in the number of ID fraud victims aged over 40, with 1,869 more victims recorded by Cifas members.
Mike Haley, deputy CEO at Cifas, explained: “These new figures show that identity fraud continues to be the foremost fraud threat. With nine out of ten identity frauds committed online and all age groups presently at risk, we’re urging everyone to make it more difficult for the fraudsters to abuse individual identities. There are three simple steps that anyone can take to protect themselves: use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted to do so and avoid the use of public Wi-Fi for banking and online shopping.”
Haley continued: “We all remember to safeguard our valued possessions through locking our house or car, but we don’t always take the same care to protect our most important asset – our identities. We all need to assume responsibility for securing our mail boxes, shredding documents like bank statements and utility bills and taking sensible precautions online. If not, we’re simply making ourselves a target for the identity fraudsters.”
Commander Chris Greany, national co-ordinator for economic crime, commented: “These latest Cifas figures demonstrate how we all need to be alert to preventing identity theft now more than ever before. We do everything we can in order to stop the identity thieves in the fight against fraud, but it must be said that the key to success is both prevention and protection.”
With instances of identity fraud set to rise, businesses and consumers alike simply must take action to address this damaging issue. Financial services companies should strengthen the security systems they have in place and the way in which they verify identities, and especially so for online transactions.
Businesses need to invest in biometric processes designed to validate identities, at the same time implementing multi-layer approaches that challenge fraudsters’ attempts to compromise systems. “Myriad consumers are embracing biometrics in their everyday lives, for example by using them to access their smart phones,” observed John Marsden, head of identity and fraud at Equifax. “Financial services companies can maximise such technology to protect their customers and their businesses.”
Certainly, the worrying knowledge gap exhibited by too many consumers when determining safe places in which to share their personal information must be plugged sooner rather than later.