The number of victims of identity fraud is up by 37 per cent, according to Cifas data published today. The new figures come just 48 hours before Black Friday, when shoppers are expected to spend more than £1 billion on online Christmas shopping.
The rise in identity fraud highlights the “double danger” facing online shoppers. Fake shopping websites and dodgy emails offering deals are not just attempts to steal money – the scammers behind these sites are often looking to harvest personal details using malware or fake sites that ask people to enter their own personal and banking details. These details are then used or sold to commit identity fraud, where a fraudster impersonates an innocent victim to buy a product or take out a loan in their name. Often victims do not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating.
The new figures, for the year up to June 2015, show that recorded identity fraud is continuing to rise in the UK:
- 37% increase in victims - 129,168 victims from July 14 - June 15 compared to 94,356 for the previous 12 months;
- Plastic cards (53,740 cases), bank accounts (41,802 cases), loans (14,282 cases) and phones (10,087 cases) are the products that are most favoured by fraudsters;
- Men are more likely to be targets, with 63% of victims male and 37% female, and the average age of a victim is 46.
Cifas Deputy Chief Executive Mike Haley said:
“Fraudsters are good at maximising on opportunities. While consumers hunt for bargains, fraudsters hunt for something much more sinister. In addition to setting up scams to trick people into handing over their money, they are often trying to steal identities too as they can then go on to make more purchases with that information.
“Don’t give fraudsters the gift of your identity this Christmas. Remember that Black Friday for shoppers is Fraud Friday for identity criminals. That doesn’t mean that we can’t shop online and enjoy the deals but it does mean we have to be careful. Use legitimate websites and search them out yourself – be wary of clicking on links in emails offering you deals.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Clark, from the City of London Police, said:
“Identity fraud is the engine that drives much of today’s criminality and so it is vitally important that people take some simple steps to keep their personal information safe and secure. This is especially the case as we enter the Christmas period and millions of us start buying presents online.
“By installing security software on all your electronic devices, by not responding to unsolicited phone calls and emails and by creating strong personal passwords you will be making life more difficult for the criminals and ensuring you can enjoy the holiday season safe in the knowledge that your identity has not been compromised.”
Tony Neate, CEO, Get Safe Online commented:
“It never fails to surprise me how cruel and shameless online criminals can be over the festive season, working as hard as they can to con people out of their presents and purchases. Christmas should be a happy time! In the last few years, we have seen the numbers for online crime at Christmas go up and up, particularly as the hype around Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains keeps getting bigger.
“Hopefully this campaign will highlight how people need to be extra cautious when grabbing those deals online – simple steps like double checking to see if the website and product is legitimate before making a payment, and also looking for any customer reviews which often act as a good touch point for safe online shopping. If you feel like something is suspicious, it probably is, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
Cifas top tips to #Stayunique this Black Friday are:
Before you shop, check that your are cyber-ready.
- Use strong passwords for your accounts and devices. Keep your passwords complex by picking three random words, such as beachsuncocktail and add or split them with symbols, numbers and capitals:BeachSunC0ckta1l!. If you’re using a PIN, make sure it’s not 1234 or 0000!
- Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date. MoneySavingExpert has a recommended list of the best free anti-virus software.
- Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.
While bargain hunting:
- Try to avoid using public Wi-Fi for your online shopping – fraudsters can hack them or mimic them so it is hard to be sure that they are safe;
- Look out for spelling mistakes or poor images which may indicate a hastily created website;
- Check that the URL matches the recognised retailer’s website and that a secure padlock appears on payment pages;
- Beware of clicking links in emails that could lead to a scam site – search out sites direct.
After you've bagged your bargain:
- Always log out of accounts when a purchase is complete - the next person to use your computer could have access to your information;
- When a retailer’s online payment page offers you the chance to ‘save your payment details’ to save time wasting the next time round – opt OUT of this.
- Follow #Stayunique on Twitter for regular advice and updates.