Two in five Brits have had their personal information put at risk by organisations that suffered data breaches. It means that 42% are at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or identity fraud. Of those who have already been exposed in a data breach once, two thirds are concerned that the same thing could happen to them again, so it's more important than ever to take steps to protect yourself.
When there's a data breach, we are usually reassured by the news that no credit card details were accessed, and that you won't lose any money. However, this doesn't mean you can afford to sit back and do nothing. Once you have been a victim, your details are in the public domain, which means they may be traded illegally by fraudsters - or used to commit identity-related crimes
The research was conducted by Experian, which highlighted how important it is to protect yourself from fraudsters - particularly if you've been notified by an organisation that your information may have been compromised.
It was therefore particularly concerned how few victims of data breaches took steps to protect themselves. It found that 54% of people didn't even bother changing their password for the site that had been breached.
Only one third of people changed their passwords on other online accounts to protect themselves from criminals using the information from one data breach to access their information elsewhere. A worrying 83% didn't change their online behaviour at all.
Amir Goshtai, Managing Director, Affinity, Experian Consumer Services, commented: "Despite a considerable number of people being affected by data breaches and cyber-attacks, it appears that many still don't understand the importance of protecting their own information online."
"Almost 7 in 10 people think the responsibility to protect their information is the sole responsibility of a service provider – when in reality this is only half the battle. While service providers have an obvious duty to protect the information they hold, we'll only make progress in the fight against fraudsters if individuals and organisations join forces to protect personal information."
He added: "If a fraudster gets their hands on the password to one of your accounts, not changing the password on your other accounts is like giving a burglar who has a key to your house instructions to find your most valuable possessions."
Experian recommends five steps to protect yourself from ID theft:
1. Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts and change your passwords every couple of months. To be a strong password, you need to avoid words from the dictionary. One option is to use the first letter of each word from a memorable phrase.
2. Beware suspicious or unexpected emails. Experian points out that a reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email, so you should never be passing these details on.
3. Keep your devices' security settings (including computers, smartphones and tablets) up to date to help prevent phishing emails and other malware threats.
4. Protect your phone or tablet with a home screen lock. Also remember that public networks and open Wi-Fi hotspots are riskier than private networks, so consider carefully the information you are accessing on these networks.
5. Check your credit report regularly and make sure there's no unexpected activity on it.
In May, Paul Robert Benson, a 24-year-old from Lurgan, stole groceries from his local supermarket. He might have got away without being identified, if he hadn’t decided to wear a Manchester United top with 'Benson 22' written on the back.
The judge sentencing him to 12 months probation said that he might as well have had a neon sign on his back.
In January, Scott Tinsley, a 38-year-old from Cobridge in Staffordshire, was jailed for 40 months after admitting burglary.
He broke into a property in the middle of the night, took electrical items, and put them in a garden a few doors down. However, he then started feeling a bit peckish, so he popped back to the property to make himself a snack. Then he promptly fell asleep - and was discovered by the homeowners in the morning.
In September 2014, a drunk burglar in the Chinese city of Suqian, talked himself into a corner.
He broke into a fifth floor flat on the mistaken assumption that it was empty, and was quickly caught by the owner’s ten-year-old daughter. When she asked what he was doing there, he decided his best defence was to say that he was Superman, and was about to fly back to his secret headquarters.
She told him to prove it, so the burglar stripped to his underwear and jumped out of the window. He told police from his hospital bed that it had seemed to make sense when he was drunk.
In July 2014, Stewart James Wright, a 37-year-old from Middlesbrough, thought he’d stumbled across the perfect crime.
He saw the door open at a student house, so wandered in and simply picked up their 42-inch-TV. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't really thought through his getaway plan.
He’d travelled to the area by bike, and was stopped by police cycling along a nearby road, trying to balance the TV on the handlebars. He was on bail at the time for stealing a bike.
In June 2014, Jamie Neil, a 41-year-old from Bethel in Cornwall, was jailed for robbing a petrol station in St Austell.
His plan to disguise himself by putting a plastic bag over his head would have worked better if he hadn't chosen a completely transparent one.
In June 2014, Nigel Ball, a 52-year-old from Wakefield, was found guilty of stealing a fish tank from a pet shop. He was caught after going back to the store to buy fish to put in it, and when staff asked him what sort of tank he had, he pointed to the type he had just stolen.
He had to complete a form with his contact details in order to take the fish, so police tracked him down to his home where they found the stolen tank.
In October 2013, a man from Perth tried to rob a corner shop, and was foiled by his trousers.
He took the till, and tried to run away with it, but his trousers were so loose they kept falling down. In the end he was forced to drop the till so he could hang onto his trousers. In the confusion he also dropped his knife and a pair of gloves, and a police dog used them to track him down. He was jailed for three and a half years.
In February 2013, a man in the Washington suburb of Laurel concocted a flawed plan to rob a bank.
His big mistake was failing to bring a bag, so he dropped the cash on the floor. He stopped to pick it up and put it in an open umbrella. Unfortunately for him, while he was held up collecting the money, the police deflated the tires on his car.
He tried to escape on foot, but slipped on a patch of ice and banged his head: at which point he gave up.
In January 2008, a man from Louisiana decided to rob a seafood restaurant. He forgot to take a disguise, so he picked up a bucket that was lying nearby and put it on his head.
The slight drawback to his disguise was that he wasn’t able to see, so he kept blundering into thing. He also had to keep lifting the bucket up to see where he was going. The security camera was therefore able to glimpse his face, and the man was identified, arrested and charged.
In September 2011, a woman from Manchester tried to steal several hundreds of pounds worth of booze from Asda in Oldham.
She loaded up the trolley, and walked out of the shop without paying. She managed to get to her car and load it up before staff caught up with her.
Sadly for her, when she jumped in the car to make her getaway, she realised she had run out of petrol. She was caught trying to push the car into the petrol station.