Credit Cards & Loans
Scammers apply for 29 different products in one ID fraud victim’s name
Martin from the East Midlands said he first realised his identity had been stolen when he received a Laura Ashley credit card in the post, despite having not applied for one.
He said: “I immediately contacted the company and spoke to a person in the fraud department who was very helpful and advised Cifas, who added my details to their victim of fraud database. In subsequent months I found out the fraud was more prolific than I had anticipated.
“If the fraud hadn’t been identified and stopped the fraudster could have racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt in my name.”
Equifax noted that Martin may have been particularly susceptible to ID fraud as he had previously been a company director; according to Cifas, company directors make up almost one in five ID theft victims, despite making up less than 10% of the UK population.
This may be down to the fact that some of their details will be publicly available through Companies House, while Cifas also warned that directors are more likely to have a media or online presence, with photos available, too.
Lisa Hardstaff, identity fraud expert at Equifax, said that this case demonstrates how fraudsters can apply for multiple credit agreements, in the hope of intercepting the correspondence, and open up mountains of debt in the victim’s name.
She said: “If they are successful, the fraudster will start with low purchase amounts so they don’t raise suspicion with the credit provider. They then go on to purchase high value items. Victims of ID fraud often don’t know anything is wrong until they get an unexpected bill or see money missing from their account. By that time, the fraudsters are long gone.”
The growing threat of identity theft
According to fraud prevention organisation Cifas, identity theft reached record levels in 2016, with almost 173,000 recorded cases. That’s more than double the number of cases recorded in 2008.
Cifas warned that young people are at growing risk of having their identity stolen, with a 34% increase in the number of frauds committed against those aged under 21. However, Cifas warned that all age groups are at risk of fraudsters.
There are a number of simple steps you can follow to ensure you protect your identity from scammers.
For starters, be very cautious about how much information you give away on social media, particularly things like your date of birth, address and family details.
Now, make sure that you use strong passwords and PINs for all of your online accounts. That means avoiding references to the names of your children or pets or the year of your birth. If you can include a mix of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and punctuation marks then all the better. Make sure you don’t share these passwords with anyone, nor write them down. If possible, don’t use the same password for more than one account either – this will limit the potential damage in case a scammer does manage to get hold of your password.
Installing up to date firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes on your electronic devices is a good idea. Cifas claims that up to 80% of cyber threats can be avoided by doing this.
If you are thinking of entering a competition online, make sure you research whether the offer is legitimate. According to research from Nationwide, as many as seven in ten of us are risking ID theft by entering competitions online, giving away all sorts of personal information, without actually checking they are above board first.
Finally, make sure you shred all financial documents before throwing them in the bin. It’s not enough to simply throw them away – they need to be impossible to read too.