Public just do not safeguard themselves against ID theft

This year’s NIDFPW, or National Identity Fraud prevention Week, started in London on October 17, and its main aim is to make both consumers and businesses aware of the ever increasing identity fraud theft, both in the home and the workplace. This is the 7th time the NIDFPW has been held, and once again it brings together partners from the public and private sector to provide a wide range of resources and expertise to help everyone protect themselves from ID frauds.

Fellowes carries out research exclusively for this campaign, and the results show that even though over 95% of the population are well aware of the risks of ID fraud, the number of victims falling foul of the fraud is still rising due to people being careless with their personal details.

7% of the population have now been the victims of ID frauds, commonly known as identity theft. This means that there have been over 4m victims in the UK, the average individual cost of each fraud comes to £1.190, but some unfortunates have lost around £9000.

CIFAS,  the Fraud Prevention Service in the UK, has reported that the number of cases concerning ID frauds that have been reported to authorities is continuing to rise, and this year alone, there have been 80,000 cases reported so far.

Research shows us that as the risk is rising, UK citizens are not taking enough care of their personal details:

– A quarter of us (25%) are still not taking simple yet key precautions such as shredding bills and bank statements before putting them in the bin
– Only 57% of those surveyed verify emails or calls from organisations before responding
– 46% wouldn’t report a lost driving license or passport straight away
– 59% do not follow up when mail fails to arrive and just 13% regularly check their credit rating
– Encouragingly, 83% of the UK public check for unfamiliar transactions on bills and statements and 86% have security software on their home computer so in some areas consumers are being more vigilant

Complacency extends to online activities as well, with 88% of people who use social networking sites having shared information that could be used to commit identity fraud such as their address or date of birth. Furthermore, only 18% of those interviewed said they were concerned about sharing information on or the security risk of social networking sites, with 10% sharing information about others that could then be used to assume their identities.

When it comes to identity fraud, prevention is always key. Some easy ways for individuals to protect themselves include:

– Always checking for unfamiliar transactions on bank statements
– Shredding all documents containing sensitive information using a cross-cut shredder before throwing them away
– Looking into mail that goes missing
– Carrying out regular personal credit report checks
– Redirecting post for at least six months when moving house
– Limiting the amount of information shared when using social networking sites

Andrea Davis, spokesperson from campaign partner, Fellowes, said:

“No-one can afford to be complacent about ID fraud, everyone is at risk, whether young or old. It is important to ensure that you are not delivering your information straight into the hands of fraudsters. The risk is very real – both off and online – and we should all be taking steps to protect our identities. It is worrying that one in four people may be literally throwing their identities away and a huge number of people are sharing sensitive information on line. Simple steps like shredding sensitive information, being careful about the information you share online and generally being cautious about giving out your personal details will help to keep your identity safe.”

Jamey Johnson, head of Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting and advice centre, said:

“Stealing an identity is just the beginning for a fraudster. With few details, accounts can be taken over, loans can be applied for and purchases can be made, all without the consent or knowledge of the individual, potentially costing the victim substantial sums of money. Last month alone (September) Action Fraud saw over £245,000 worth of loss due to identity theft. The worrying part is that this figure was generated from a limited amount of reports, suggesting the amount lost to ID theft would be much higher if more people were reporting.

“It is important to report a loss to Action Fraud, but it is more important to protect yourself from it happening in the first place. Limiting access to your personal information is the key to safety from ID fraud. Remember, personal details are as valuable as cash to a fraudster.”

Simon Ellson, Norton by Symantec’s internet security expert, said:

“This year the internet and its ever-evolving nature has continued to inspire criminals who commit ID fraud. Just as technology evolves, so too do the methods of cybercriminals. In the last 12 months in particular, we’ve seen more opportunist criminals take advantage of ‘starter kits’ that allow them to carry out sophisticated attacks with relatively little tech know-how.

“According to the Norton Cybercrime Report 2011, the largest piece of consumer research conducted into cybercrime worldwide, online credit card fraud is one of the top three cybercrimes and accounts for 10% of all cybercrime in the UK.”

For more tips and advice on how to prevent identity fraud, visit the campaign’s website, www.stop-idfraud.co.uk. The website contains a downloadable advice pack for consumers as well as a business guide.

This year’s campaign is supported by the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, Fellowes, Norton, the National Fraud Authority, Action Fraud, IFCAG, Equifax, CIFAS – The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, Scottish Business Crime Centre, e-Crime Scotland, the Home Office and the Royal Mail.