Identity Theft Soars As Fraudsters Mine Online Social Media Profiles

Prolific sharers on social media might be putting themselves at increased risk of identity fraud, according to security experts.

A new report from Cifas revealed that the number of cases of identity theft rose by 57% last year, as scammers mined social media profiles for personal information.

Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have become a “hunting ground” for identity thieves, the fraud prevention service said.

In the UK more than 148,000 people were victim to identity thefts compared with 94,500 in 2014. More than 85% of frauds were carried out online.

Real names, phone numbers, dates of birth, addresses and bank details were all gathered by thieves through social media in a bid to imper their victims. Even photos of your home and workplace can put you at risk, according to the Get Safe Online campaign.

Internet connected devices such as smart fridges and heating systems are also increasingly targeted by fraudsters, according to the site which states: “Because these objects are connected to the internet, just like computers and mobile devices they are vulnerable to unauthorised intrusion or hacking.

“But the risk is in fact greater as it simply does not occur to many people that these objects can be hacked.”

The estimated annual cost of fraud in Britain was £193bn last year, according to a report earlier this year.

How to stay safe on social media and using connected devices:

  • Be wary of publishing identifying information about yourself in your profile or posts - such as phone numbers, pictures of your home, workplace or school, your address or birthday
  • Use the privacy features to restrict strangers' access to your profile. Be on your guard against "phishing" scams, including fake friend requests and posts from individuals or companies inviting you to visit other pages or sites
  • Be aware of what friends post about you, or reply to your posts, particularly about your personal details and activities
  • Pick a username that doesn’t include personal information. For example, "joe_glasgow" or "jane_liverpool" would be bad choices
  • Use strong passwords. Do not use the same password or PIN for more than one account, and do not use your date of birth or your child's name, include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation marks. Aim for a minimum of 10 characters in a password
  • Update your computer's firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes – 80% of cyber threats can be removed by doing this
  • Change the default password on your connected to device to one that is difficult to crack/guess but that you can remember. Keep your passwords to yourself.
  • Ensure your connected device’s Wi-Fi connection is secured to WPA2 level at all times and do not reveal the access code to unauthorised persons.
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