Cifas, a not-for-profit organization working to fight fraud in the UK, warned the public that identity fraud numbers hit record levels in 2016. In addition to the warning, the fraud prevention group noted that 88 percent of all recorded identity fraud occurred online. Fraudsters used several methods of obtaining personal information last year; methods ranged from the classic mail theft and social engineering to buying full identity kits found on darknet markets.
The study on 2016 fraud incidents revealed that a growing number of young people have become victims. No longer is identity theft only a threat to individuals of 35 years or more. Cifas reported 25,000 victims under the age 30, and an additional increase in cases involving victims under 21. The report noted a 34 percent rise in cases of identity fraud against the 21 and younger age group. The number of victims over 40 increased too, just by a smaller factor.
Out of all types of fraud reported to Cifas, online identity fraud claimed the number one spot. Identity fraud took the spot for the most commonly reported type of fraud, that is. Other types of fraud may still cause more total damage. Identity fraud clocked in at 53.3 percent of all frauds Cifas recorded – 173,000 incidents.
Cifas Deputy Chief Executive Mike Haley warned the public of the dangers of such fraud and urged people to utilize good data protection practices. “These new figures show that identity fraud continues to be the number one fraud threat,” he said. “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.”
He continued to explain that there were only three steps needed to protect personal information.
- Use stronger passwords.
- Download software updates when prompted on your devices.
- Avoid using public wi-fi for banking and online shopping.
“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. We all need to take responsibility to secure our mail boxes, shred your important documents like bank statements and utility bills, and take sensible precautions online – otherwise we are making ourselves a target for the identity fraudster.”
Stolen information available for purchase from the darknet is far from a rarity. Healthcare record dumps, forum registration databases, and dating website user-lists routinely found their way onto darknet markets like TheRealDeal.
Healthcare breaches often provided the most data – a single database, depending on the host’s size, could serve as a foundation for a massive number of full stolen identity kits. Forums and dating sites suffered the same fate on a regular basis.
No matter how safe one keeps their information, the opportunities for hackers to access it through a vulnerable third party continue to expand.