ID theft hits all-time high

The UK's Fraud Prevention Service (CIFAS) claims ID theft has hit an all-time high. ID fraud - internet log-ins, postcodes, dates of birth, bank details - has grabbed 50% all frauds identified by CIFAS.

And missing identity details now take 65% of all fraud theft. So what are the best ways to protect yourself?

ID undermined

"With nearly two thirds of all recorded fraud now relating to the abuse of identity details," says Richard Hurley from CIFAS, "organisations and individuals must develop new ways of safeguarding their personal data, account log in details and more. Otherwise, easily compromised data effectively provides the fraudster with a licence to steal money."

Recently close to half a million Yahoo Voice usernames plus passwords were nicked. The rise (and rise) of the smartphone is also fuelling the ID theft explosion. Last year Javelin Strategy & Research claimed 7% of all smart phone users were hit by ID crime, not helped by some apps containing malware.

Experian CreditExpert has warned that too many consumers don't vary their passwords, especially when using the internet (can you blame them, given how hard it is to remember multiple IDs?).

26 different passwords?

Experian reckons the average Briton now has 26 different online accounts - and that 12 million pieces of illegal information were traded online by identity fraudsters in the first four months of 2012 (a figure that dwarfs those from the whole of 2010 when 9.5 million pieces of personal information were illegally traded).

Some apps like - it claims to turn your smartphone into a digital wallet sorting out and storing credit cards, receipts and other financial info - can help.

But the CIFAS warning remains a worry. CIFAS, by the way, is a not-for-profit membership association representing 250 UK organisations across the financial and business and IT sectors sharing details of fraudulent applications for products and services.

Are you targeted?

Keep in mind that there two age demographics that ID fraudsters are increasingly targeting: 35-55 year old women and 18-25 year old men and women. "Both groups," says Financial Fraud Action UK, "use their personal information regularly to conduct their day to day lives whether it's for online shopping or keeping up with friends on social networking sites."

If you believe someone has used your personal details fraudulently, you should contact a credit reference agency such as Experian.

Keep your ID safe advises:

  • If your plastic cards are lost or stolen, cancel them immediately. Keep a note of the emergency numbers you should call. Further details can be found at the Card Watch website
  • Consider also deploying the CIFAS Protective Registration service to stop credit being taken-out in your name without further checking to yourself
  • Considering using the Mailing Preference Service to limit the amount of unwanted mail you receive

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