The number of victims of identity theft rose by 57% last year, figures from fraud prevention service Cifas suggest.
The data, taken from 261 companies in the UK, suggests fraudsters are increasingly getting people’s personal information from social media sites.
Cifas said Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn had become a “hunting ground” for identity thieves.
It said there were more than 148,000 victims in the UK in 2015 compared with 94,500 in 2014.
A small percentage of cases involved fictitious identities but most fraudsters assumed the identity of a real person after accessing their name, date of birth, address and bank details. More than 85% of the frauds were carried out online.
Some personal details were found by hacking computers but increasingly fraudsters used social media to put together the pieces of someone’s identity, Cifas said.
It urged people to check their privacy settings and think carefully about what information they share online.
Often victims did not even realise they had been targeted until a bill arrived for something they did not buy or they experienced problems with their credit rating, the fraud prevention service added.
A report out earlier this year estimated the annual cost of fraud in the UK was £193bn – equal to nearly £3,000 per head of population.
Business fraud accounted for £144bn, the study said, while fraud against individuals was estimated at £9.7bn.
“Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details instead.
Society, government and industry all have a role in preventing fraud. However, our concern is that the lack of awareness about identity fraud is making it even easier for fraudsters to obtain the information they need.
The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites – they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves.
We are urging people to check their privacy settings today and think twice about what they share. To a fraudster, the information we put online is a goldmine.”
Simon Dukes, Cifas Chief Executive
For additional information from Cifas about sharing information online, visit their website.
For more information about our work, please visit www.safeinwarwickshire.com/cybercrime
Be Cyber Streetwise is a cross-government campaign, funded by the National Cyber Security Programme. They aim to measurably and significantly improve the online safety behaviour and confidence of consumers and small businesses (SMEs).
Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety. Their website offers advice on how you can protect yourself, your computers and devices, and your business against the likes of fraud, identity theft, viruses and other potential online problems.