Millions of people in the UK are failing to take basic steps like redirecting post or updating firewalls to protect their identities from criminals, a new survey shows.
The results have been published as the City of London Police and partners including PSNI launch the ‘Not With My Name’ campaign to target the growing threat of identity crime in the UK.
One in four UK adults – 12.275 million people – is believed to have fallen victim to identity crime losing on average £1,200 each, with total losses to the UK adult population estimated to be £3.3 billion*.
The campaign, which is backed by PSNI, urges people to protect their personal information by creating safe passwords, protecting internet devices, rejecting unsolicited phone calls and emails, and safely storing and disposing of mail.
Worryingly, today’s survey shows that many people are not taking these steps:
• Online security - 1 in 3 (34%) do not regularly update their firewall or antivirus software;
• Social media –1 in 3 (35%) do not limit the amount of information they share on social media;
• Safe disposal of documents – 1 in 3 (31%) of people do not shred letters before throwing them away.
Two thirds of people (71%) do not regularly redirect their post for at least six months when they move house, leaving them vulnerable to bank statements or other mail being intercepted by fraudsters.
Identity crime is growing in the UK and protecting personal information is essential to combating the threat. In the first quarter of 2015 there was a 27% increase in identity fraud. The average age of a victim of ID fraud is 46, with men being 1.7 times more likely than women to have their identity stolen.
Victims often find that money has been removed from their bank or their account has been taken over, a fraudulent passport or driving licence has been created in their name, or loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts have been set-up using their identity.
Identity crime is distressing for victims and takes an average 200 hours of a person or businesses’ time to resolve. The rise is also concerning because the proceeds are often used to fund further criminal activity.
The ‘Not With My Name’ campaign will share tips to raise awareness and help people protect their identities across the country.
City of London Police Commander Steve Head, who is the Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, said: “Identity crime is a serious issue for the country, with some reports suggesting that as many as one in four adults may have been a victim at some time, with the potential costs to our economy running into billions of pounds. People across the UK are having their personal information stolen online or even over the phone and often unknowingly. These identities are then used by criminals to commit further criminality, to evade detection from law enforcement and to help launder the proceeds of crime. To really get to grips with identity crime it requires all of us to come together and share advice and best practice on how to most effectively protect our personal information. Following the top tips provided by the ‘Not With My Name’ campaign will help people better understand some of the simple steps they can take in their day-to-day lives that will help keep their identities safe and combat these criminals.”
PSNI Detective Constable Stephen Crooks, from Reactive and Organised Crime Branch, said: “People in Northern Ireland are just as vulnerable as elsewhere in the UK to leaving themselves exposed to fraud by failing to take simple steps to protect their identities. We can all do more to make a fraudster’s job more difficult. We know that people lead increasingly demanding and busy lives, with many people reporting password fatigue or struggling to find the time to update their software securely and regularly. But we need to change the way we think about our identities and prioritise protecting them. ‘Not With My Name’ gives us the tools to do this ourselves.”
Individuals and businesses that have fallen victim to a fraud facilitated by an identity crime should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
The tips to protect yourself from identity fraud are:
• Be careful who you give your personal information to and how
• Make it as difficult as possible to crack your personal passwords
• Always destroy or securely store personal documents
• Don’t respond to unsolicited phone calls or emails
• Protect your personal devices
*National Fraud Authority Annual Fraud Indicator 2013.
The survey on take-up of security measures was conducted by ComRes. ComRes interviewed 4,061 GB adults online between 25th February and 1st March 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.