Who are identity thieves targeting now?

Are you at risk of ID theft - and what can you do?

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There's good news and bad news. On the one hand, new figures have revealed that high end fraud targeting wealthy couples is on the slide. Unfortunately, on the other, fraud itself isn't falling - it's actually rising alarmingly. It's just that fraudsters are focusing on easier, more vulnerable, targets.

According to research from Experian, those who have borne the brunt of a hike in fraud are less well-off people in rented accommodation - particularly young professionals in cities. They were the targets of one in five of all identity theft attempts in the past year.

This kind of threat tends to take one of three forms. First is identity theft - where criminals use your personal details in order to impersonate you and claim benefits or products in your name. The second is identity fraud, where criminals use your identity to make applications for new products or open new accounts. And third is facility takeover fraud - where they have enough details to bypass security on your accounts and take control of them.

Wealthier targets

Fraudsters typically focused their attention on rich families in posh areas - who tend to have the most assets and investments - and therefore the most to lose. However, they have seen themselves drop off the radar of the identity thieves slightly. In 2014 they made up 10.7% of all identity theft attempts, while in 2015 they made up 8.3% of them.

Nick Mothershaw at Experian says that despite having more to steal, this group is increasingly well protected - and difficult to target. Fraudsters are therefore turning their attention to younger people in rented accommodation - because they are easier to impersonate.

Vulnerable

There are a couple of things that make them vulnerable. First, as Mothershaw points out: "Easily accessible, shared hallways can offer opportunities for those wanting to harvest personal details."

These groups are also likely to move more often, and when post shows up at their old address, it provides fraudsters with an opportunity. Previous research by Experian has highlighted that 30% of identity theft uses a previous address to commit fraud.

They may also be more active on social media - which fraudsters can use to extract vital information - ranging from where you work to the name of your pet or your mother's maiden name.

Given the demographics of the capital, London is unsurprisingly the epicentre of fraud. The other areas with particularly high rates include the centres of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow.

What can you do?

Wherever you are and whatever situation you are in, it's important to take steps to protect yourself. Fraud prevention experts at Experian recommend:

1. Always shred or destroy documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.

2. Never respond to cold phone calls or e-mails asking for account details, PINs, passwords or personal information.

3. Don't give too much away on networking websites. For example, pets' names or children's names could be used as passwords.

4. Register to vote at your current address. If you don't, thieves could use your previous address details to open new credit accounts, and run up debts in your name.

5. Monitor your post regularly so you know when to expect important documents — and when to act if they don't arrive.

6. Redirect your mail via the Post Office if you move house.

7. Always use secure, unique passwords for as many online accounts as possible, and ideally all of them. At the very least have a unique password for each type of service provider such as financial services, retail services and email.

8. Don't store account names and passwords on your smartphone, either in email, as a note, or to 'autocomplete' when you open a website or app. It will be a goldmine for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen.

9. Read all bank and card statements regularly to check for suspicious transactions.

10. Check your credit report, because it lists your credit accounts and what you owe, so you can spot applications and spending that are nothing to do with you.

Victims of scams and fraud

Victims of scams and fraud


How to Avoid Identity Theft - Identifying Data Thieves

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