Fraudsters like to obtain things that don’t belong to them, and their favourite way of doing this is by deceit. Sometimes they do it in their own name, sometimes they use someone else’s identity, other times they will just make an identity up altogether from scratch and use that.
Usually these things turn out to be money or goods, and the faster the better. That’s why we are seeing a rise in the number of times fraudsters are attempting to take out plastic cards in stolen identities. The figures are stark – we recorded 53,740 of these cases from July 14 to June 15, an increase of 22% from the previous 12 months. Fortunately financial institutions have lots of systems in place to check identities, so many of these attempts are stopped in their tracks before the card is issued. But not always – fraudsters can get hold of so much personal information that sometimes the difference between genuine and fake identities is very hard to spot.
The result: a huge impact on victims as they try to unpick what has been done in their name, salvage credit ratings and prove that they are not responsible for the spend and debts racking up.
The sheer scale of attempts is a worry. If an application is made in someone else’s name, even if it ultimately fails, that still means that person’s identity is out there and it is being used. The fraudster may well move on to try and use it with a company that has fewer fraud defences and may not be able to prevent the next attempt.
What’s even more worrying about this trend is that the majority of fraudulent credit card applications involve a victim’s genuine address – around three quarters of attempts in 2014. That means thieves stole a victim’s identity, used it to order a new credit card and then intercepted it on the way, or once it arrived at the victim’s own address. It’s an uncomfortable thought that criminals are using genuine addresses and intercepting cards or other mail – it means they potentially have access to your mail or your building. The latter can be a particular problem in you live in shared accommodation or large blocks of flats, with unsecure mail.
How do fraudsters get hold of addresses so easily? Unfortunately it is far too simple for them to get hold of the kind of personal information you need to make a credit card application. Our personal details are stored in so many places – on our own laptops and personal devices, by companies that we do business with, on mail that comes to our address and sometimes even on social media, where we have shared them freely without properly realising that a fraudster could piece them together. So it is not hard for fraudsters to get their hands on information that has been lost, hacked or shared – and use it.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. We can prevent it and make fraudsters lives difficult. There are simple steps we can take that will go a long way to protecting our information:
- Use strong passwords for your accounts and devices. Follow our 8 simple tipson how to use strong passwords.
- Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date. You can protect your computer from viruses for free withBT NetProtect Plus.
- Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.
- Keep an eye on your mail – try to keep track of statements or financial documents and don’t ignore any unexpected bills or assume they are errors.