April 04, 2016

Susceptible to Identity Theft? Know What to Do

Identity theft, when a person’s private identifying information is stolen or purchased and used for financial gain by criminals, is a growing problem. 

According to the CIFAS 2014 Fraudscape report, identity theft accounts for almost half of all fraud in the UK. Businesses and individuals are both affected. Research by the National Fraud Authority suggests that identity theft has impacted 27% of the UK adult population at some point in time, with identity thieves making off with over £3.3 billion in stolen funds in one year alone.

Online habits, mobile device behaviour, and debit card usage can all make a person more susceptible to identity theft. And, for some individuals the risk of identity theft is based on what they do for a living and where they live. To know how to stop identity theft, it’s important to first understand what could make you a target. 

Here are top targets of identity thieves:

SOCIAL MEDIA USERS: Sharing personal information on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn is risky because information thieves use these sites to collect personal information; then they use that information to apply for a loan, for example, or target individuals with phishing scams.

PLASTIC USERS:  Users of debit or credit cards are vulnerable especially when hackers break into retailers’ electronic transaction records. One Verizon report found that in 2014, data breaches in the retail sector accounted for 1 in 13 of overall data breach incidents

EXECUTIVE TYPES: In a classification system of demographic groups targeted by fraudsters, Experian identified the ‘City Prosperity’ cash-rich segment as the most at-risk group for identity theft.  Loans, savings and cards all offer thieves a quick financial win.  

EASY ACCESS: The Experian system showed that people living in densely populated areas, in multi-occupancy homes with shared or remote mailboxes and communal amenities were targets too. Current accounts, loans, cards, and bogus insurance claims are vulnerable there.   

MOBILE PHONE USERS: In one study by Canadian organisation, Checkpoint Software Technologies Ltd, 79% of companies reported security incidents caused by mobile devices. Mobile devices are not always properly protected but used to connect to bank accounts, company networks and other places that house confidential information.

Here are best practices to help prevent identity theft:

  • Don’t post too much personal information on social media websites.  
  • Protect PIN numbers, and securely shred old cards and statements.  
  • Monitor bank accounts, credit cards, and credit reports regularly for unusual activity.
  • In the workplace, make information security a part of corporate culture. Have a comprehensive document management policy, and control access. Enforce a Mobile Device Policy. Provide ongoing employee training.
  • Stay compliant with data protection laws. For example, know what documents must be securely destroyed and which documents you should keep.
  • Equip mobile phones with the latest safeguards including password protection, encryption, and anti-virus software.
  • Have an Incident Response Plan at the ready. Research has shown it can help control losses, mitigate damages, and maintain compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
  • Safeguard against post thieves and recycling bin raiders. Partner with a document destruction company that provides locked consoles for documents that are no longer needed, and secure on- or off-site shredding. Schedule hard drive destruction too.

Are insider fraudsters lurking about looking for opportunities to steal information in your office? Learn how to spot the risks with this infographic.