Online Data Pushes Identity Theft To Record High

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Social media also contributed to a sharp rise in young people taking part in money laundering scams

Data available online contributed to a record number of identity theft cases in the UK last year, with social media also contributing to a sharp increase in the number of young people used in money laundering schemes.

Anti-fraud agency Cifas said ID theft cases rose by 1 percent to 174,523 incidents, with eight out of 10 cases using information found online. The number of incidents represents a 125 rise over a 10-year period.

Cifas’ figures showed an increase in scammers using fraudulent data to take out retail credit loans, insurance and mobile phone contracts, as other areas – such as bank accounts and credit cards – carry out more rigorous identity checks.

“As some targets become harder to crack, criminals turn to what they consider are softer targets,” said Mike Haley, Cifas’ deputy chief executive. “As fraudsters see their attempts to obtain these products become more difficult, the question will arise about where they will target next.”

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The popular view may hold that younger people are more careless with sharing their personal information online, but Cifas said people over 40 represented 48 percent more cases than those under that age in 2017.

Individuals over the age of 60 were most likely to be hit by scams involving a fraudulent “security check” in which a caller pretends to “verify” information that is then used to commit crime, such as an online banking password.

More than one-third of such account takeovers hit over-60s, which Cifas said was in part due to the rise in popularity of online banking.

Younger people were, however, increasingly targeted over social media to act as “money mules”, in schemes that involve the use of a legitimate account to accept criminal funds before transferring them elsewhere,  with the account holder keeping a portion for themselves.

The number of 14 to 24-year-olds involved in such schemes rose by 27 percent last year, with the number 21 and under rising by 36 percent.

Acting as a money mule can lead to prison sentences and can make it difficult to open a bank account or obtain a mobile phone contract or student loan later on.

Social media is increasingly used to target those involved, which Cifas said was a “particular concern”.

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