by Francesca Hall
Operations Fraud Investigator
500 identities stolen a day - protecting yourself against fraud
Fraud will never go away, fraudsters will always think of new ways to take a person's identity. A lot of people believe they’ve taken appropriate steps by shredding their bank statements or opting for online only. The more awareness people have the harder it’s going to be for fraudsters to win. Fraud is not a victimless crime, lives are affected. There’s a dark side to fraud and it continues to rise. 2017 saw an all-time high of 174,523 cases, equalling roughly 500 per day. 95% of identity fraud cases involved the impersonation of an innocent victim.
I've been a fraud investigator at Ikano Bank for just over three years. Part of my role is speaking to victims of identity fraud. Most of the victims I speak with are understandably upset and can’t believe it’s happened to them. It’s important that I give them some ease and understanding as the experience is quite daunting for some. There are steps you can take to protect yourself against identity theft.
Used free Wi-Fi lately?
It’s scarily easy to unknowingly give away your details, using public Wi-Fi is often compared to shouting out your details in public. Now we all use free Wi-Fi, sophisticated fraudsters out there like to hang out in restaurants, cafes or other spaces with free Wi-Fi in a corner with their laptop; an open opportunity to hack your data. Always be suspicious if you see two similarly named network connections and ask a staff member for help. That doesn’t mean every hipster out there grabbing a coffee is a fraudster.
How strong is your password?
Everything is online nowadays, for that reason alone you should always have strong passwords. Use a symbol, an uppercase letter and a number or two. Make your computer & details a bit trickier to hack!
Taken any selfies?
Everyone is on social media; we’re in a time of sharing and sometimes oversharing.
There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft on social media:
- Never put your full date of birth on social media, it’s public to see.
- Same goes for your address and other personally identifiable information. Fraudsters are clever. Be mindful of the selfies you’re taking and posts you and your friends make about you.
- Take advantage of the privacy settings. The scary thing is that all a fraudster needs to start abusing your nice clean credit file is your name and date of birth.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. It’s really sad to report that we, like a lot of other lenders have experienced “Romance Fraud”, where a lonely individual genuinely believe they have made a strong bond and friendship that started up on social media. The fraudster has invested time to gain trust and eventually after months of grooming, the victim gives out their details. The fraudster then goes to take a high value loan in their name, leaving the victim feeling even more lonely and ashamed.
Protecting young people – the most vulnerable
Money mules and mule ‘accounts’ are on the rise. A money mule receives stolen funds into their account and are then asked to withdraw it and wire the money to a different account, often in another country, keeping some of the money for themselves.
- 2017 saw a 27% increase in 14-24 year olds becoming ‘money mules’
- Overall bank accounts identified as being used as ‘mule’ accounts were up by 11%
Often fraudsters make friends with young people on social media just to try and use them as money mules. At this age, many are leaving home for the first time and could be easily coerced into giving personal details away to get “easy cash”. Money gained from fraud is often part of drug/people trafficking, even terrorism. Is this is at the front of a young person’s mind if they think some easy cash is available to them?
Monitor your credit file
If you monitor your credit file you can stay ahead of the game. If you see a search or an account you don't recognise, it may be a fraudster 'testing the water', so don’t be afraid to dispute those searches with the relevant company. A declined search that’s not yours is still fraud. Any fraudulent data being used whether it’s successful or not will be reported appropriately to make other lenders aware of what is being used to try and obtain money. Some people like to have a quick snap shot of their credit file. I would advise having a look once a month, although a small fee could be applied monthly to review, generally, you can cancel this any time you like.
Why does a fraudster commit fraud?
A fraudster may genuinely believe it is a victimless crime. It isn’t, people get hurt and it causes a ripple effect of stress and inconvenience for the victim. Fraudsters may believe it's easy cash or might be desperate for money themselves. They may be part of something much bigger than a quick opportunity.
Final thoughts to protect yourself
Protect yourself against identity theft by listening to your instincts and being patient. Something that sounds too good to be true probably is. Don’t forget that if you are concerned you may have been a victim of identity theft, someone is always available to help.
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Stats sourced from https://www.cifas.org.uk/newsroom/new-report-reveals-record-levels-identity-fraud-2017