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Identity Fraud Reaches Record Levels

Identity theft cases reached record levels in 2016 with young people a growing target, the fraud prevention organisation Cifas says.

Almost 25,000 victims of fraud were aged under 30, with the number of under-21’s defrauded rising by a third.

Listen to Warwickshire’s Cyber Crime Advisor speak to BBC Coventry & Warwickshire from the one hour mark. A representative from CIFAS also gives their advice about staying safe from identity fraud just after the two hour mark.

The statistics were gathered from 277 banks and businesses, and are at the highest levels since they started being compiled 13 years ago.

Cifas says people must be more vigilant about protecting their personal data.

There were 172,919 incidents of identity fraud last year. It now represents 53.3% of all fraud recorded by Cifas, of which 88% occurred online.

“With nine out of 10 identity frauds committed online and with all age groups at risk, we are urging everyone to make it more difficult for fraudsters to abuse their identity. We all remember to protect our possessions through locking our house or flat or car but we don’t take the same care to protect our most important asset – our identities.”

Cifas Deputy Chief Executive Mike Haley

The number of under-21’s being defrauded rose from 1,343 in 2015 to 1,803 in 2016.

Last year also saw increases in victims aged over 40, with 1,869 cases recorded by Cifas members.

“With close to half of all crime now either fraud or cyber crime we all need to make sure we protect our identity.

“Identity fraud is the key to unlocking your valuables. Things like weak passwords or not updating your software are the same as leaving a window or door unlocked.”

City of London Police Commander Chris Greany,
National Co-Ordinator for Economic Crime

According to Cifas, the vast majority of identity fraud takes place when a fraudster pretends to be an individual, so as to buy a product or take out a loan in their name.

Fraudsters get hold of the necessary personal material by stealing mail, computer hacking, obtaining data on the dark web, and exploiting personal information on social media.

They can also gather it though social engineering, where people give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a retailer.

Cifas advises people to shred important paper documents – and use passwords, privacy settings and anti-virus software on their computers.

What You Can Do

  • Limit the amount of personal information you give away on social networking sites. Your real friends know where you live and know your birthday
  • Update your computer’s firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes. Up to 80% of cyber threats can be removed by doing this
  • Never share passwords or PINs (personal identification numbers) with others and do not write them down
  • Use strong passwords and PINs – don’t use your date of birth or your child’s name, include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation marks. Aim for a minimum of 10 characters in a password
  • Do not use the same password or PIN for more than one account
  • Shred all your financial documents before you throw them away

For more information about our work, please visit

Cyber Aware 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.

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