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Identity theft reaches record levels: how to protect yourself  

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Cases of identity theft have reached record highs in the UK, with over 60s and under 21s most at risk.

There were 189,108 cases of identify theft recorded in 2018 – an 8 per cent increase on 2017’s figures, according to Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service.

Plastic cards were hit the hardest with 82,608 reports of fraud, up 41 per cent from 2017.

While identify theft soared among all age groups, middle aged and young people were hardest hit.

Victims aged 21 and under rose 26 per cent, while the over-60s saw an alarming 34 per cent increase on the previous year.

Cifas said that fraudsters were increasingly targeting older people online because they are more likely to be approved for credit and their online presence is growing. In 2018 more than 33,000 over-60s were the victim of identity fraud.

There was also an increase in the number of middle-aged people becoming money mules. These are people who serve as intermediaries for criminals laundering money, whether or not they know about it.

Cifas saw a 35 per cent increase in people aged 40- 60 becoming involved in such activity.

Overall cases of fraud rose by 6 per cent.

Mike Hale, CEO of Cifas, said: “Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud.

“From identity theft through to using the young and naïve as money mules to launder money, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing. The only way to fight the threat is to combine communication and collaboration, working together to present a united front against the perpetrators.”

Five tips to prevent identity theft – from Cifas

  1. Check your privacy settings on all your social media accounts, particularly old ones you no longer use. It may take time, but it is worth it to keep your personal information safe.
  2. Be cautious of accepting an invitation to “connect” from individuals you do not know. LinkedIn provides advice in its help centre about reporting fake profiles, inaccurate profiles and scams.
  3. Deactivate and delete old profiles. Using search engines like Pipl will help you identify your old social media accounts.
  4. Be wary of unsolicited messages, or urgent demands for personal information from individuals saying they’re from companies such as your bank or the HMRC.
  5. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never reveal personal or financial information.