Sharp rise in identity fraud as scammers use Facebook and other social media sites to hunt for information
July 5, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1172 articles)
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Sharp rise in identity fraud as scammers use Facebook and other social media sites to hunt for information

Fraudsters are increasingly using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a “hunting ground” for personal information, leading to huge rise in identity theft, according to a new report.

The number of victims of identity theft rose by 57pc last year, Cifas, the fraud prevention service, said. There were more than 148,000 victims in the UK in 2015, compared with almost 94,500 in 2014.

Identity fraud happens when a criminal pretends to be an innocent individual in order to take out a financial product, such as a loan or credit card, in their name.

Victims often do not realise they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or until they have a problem with their credit rating.

Fraudsters often trawl social media sites to find personal information, such as your name, date of birth, address and name of your bank.

They will gather the information in a number of ways, including hacking if a company that holds information about you doesn’t protect its data properly. They will also use social media to “put the pieces of someone’s identity together”, the report said.

Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details insteadSimon Duke

Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas, said: “Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details instead.

“The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites – they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves.

“We are urging people to check their privacy settings today and think twice about what they share.”

Commander Chris Greany of the City of London Police, a national co-ordinator for economic crime, said: “We have known for some time that identity fraud has become the engine that drives much of today’s criminality and so it is vitally important that people keep their personal information safe and secure.”

Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, have grown massively in popularity in the last ten years – giving fraudsters access to personal information CREDIT:  JAKOB KAMENDER  /ALAMY 

How to protect your personal information on social media

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn have grown enormously in popularity in the past 10 years. However, you should be wary about how much personal information you share.

  • Take time to learn about privacy and security settings on social networks. If you want to keep your account private, you can usually choose this in the “settings” section on the website or app.
  • Whatever you post on social media stays normally online for ever. Think twice before posting information. For example, do you really need to have your date of birth on your Facebook profile?
  • Social media can be used for a variety of purposes, from keeping in touch with family and friends to making new business connections and advancing your career. Think twice before accepting someone as a friend who you do not know. You can also use tools in social media sites to manage the information you share with people. On Facebook, for example, you can set up groups if you’d like to limit what you share.
  • Regularly change your password and make sure that it isn’t something obvious that a hacker could guess, such as your maiden name or date of birth.
  • Keep security software up to date. Insuring that you have the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defence against viruses and other “malware”.
  • Pick a username that doesn’t include too much personal information. For example, “RichardJohns_London” or “Isabel.Duke.Bournemouth” may not be a good idea.

For more information visit GetSafeOnline.org.

What to do if you think you’re a victim of identify fraud

  1. Get a copy of your credit report. It may be one of the first places where you can spot if someone has set up an account in your name. The biggest firms are Equifax, Call Credit and Experian. It may be worth checking all three if you’re worried as firms report information to different credit reference services. You can do this for nothing by signing up to a free trial and cancelling before the end of the free period. You can also pay £2 for a one-off “statutory” report.
  2. If you receive letters from a company that seem suspicious and imply that you have an account with the sender, do not ignore it. Inform the company that you did not set up the account and ask to speak to its fraud team.
  3. Report the fraud to Action Fraud either online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
  4. You can also access free victim support by contacting victimsupport.org.uk.

Source | Telegraph