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Identity fraud in the UK has reached record levels with nearly 173,000 cases recorded in 2016 as young people are being increasingly targeted, fraud prevention organisation Cifas says.
Almost 25,000 victims of fraud were under the age of 30 and the number of under-21s defrauded has risen by a third, from 1,343 in 2015 to 1,803 in 2016.
There were 172,919 incidents of identity fraud in the UK last year, up from 169,592 in 2015 (itself a record year), representing 53.3 per cent of all fraud recorded by Cifas. 88 per cent of fraud now happens online.
2016 also saw increases in victims aged over 40, with 1,869 more victims recorded.
Cifas, a not-for-profit organisation which helps organisations prevent fraud, said people must be more vigilant about protecting their personal data.
Most fraud happens when a fraudster acquires personal information about someone - such as name, bank account, date of birth and address - then uses that data to pretend to be them to buy products or take out loans.
Fraudsters get the information in different ways, including by stealing mail, hacking, persuading people to volunteer personal details and obtaining data on the so-called dark web.
‘Number one fraud threat’
Mike Haley, Cifas deputy chief executive, said: “These new figures show that identity fraud continues to be the number one fraud threat. With nine out of ten 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.”
Commander Chris Greany, national co-ordinator for economic crime said: “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.”
Cifas recommends a number of steps for protecting against identity fraud, including:
Setting privacy settings across social media channels.
Password-protect your devices, keeping passwords complex.
Install anti-virus software on your computer and other personal devices.
Be careful when using public wi-fi fraudsters can hack into public connections, so avoid doing things like mobile banking.
The Cyber Defence Capability Assessment Tool (CDCAT) provides a comprehensive tool for organisations to assess their cyber defences and identify any vulnerabilities they may have. As the frequency of attacks increase, the tool is an essential method to mitigate any threats cybercriminals pose.