'One in four' touched by ID theft

Experts recommend shredding documents, not putting personal information online and being careful when sending CVs to recruitment sites
Written by Jo Best, Contributor on

A quarter of adults have been a victim identity theft or know someone who has been affected by it, an investigation by Which? magazine has found.

The research also discovered that awareness of the crime is rising, with two-thirds of individuals now concerned about the crime, which costs the UK around £1.3bn a year, according to government statistics.

Despite the growing fear of identity theft, Brits are surprising lax about taking easy steps to keep their personal details out of the hands of the fraudsters.

Which? found that 33 percent of adults don't take any precautions to beat the ID thieves, while 18 percent shred their documents but still use a single password for all online banking; a similar number don’t shred documents but make use of several different passwords, while 31 percent take both precautions.

According to Equifax, a victim of an identity theft will need to take up to 300 hours to clear their name following the attack.

Which? magazine's recommendations to safeguard against identity theft include shredding all documents, using a variety of passwords when banking online and checking personal credit files regularly.

While the more tech-savvy individual that can spot a phishing email a mile off may think themselves safe from the fraudsters, David Porter, head of security and risk at consultants Detica, warned people are opening themselves up to attacks by posting personal details on seemingly innocuous Web sites.

"A huge amount of your identity is your biography and your life. I think you shouldn't disclose any information about your life, your loves, your job, your friends to Web sites aimed at making you new friends or reuniting you with old ones. People should be careful about submitting CVs to recruitment sites too."

As well as encouraging individuals to be more aware of how they might become victims, banks and financial institutions could also take steps to cut off the fraudsters.

Dave Birch, head of IT consultancy Consult Hyperion, said: "If you're asking people to log on with passwords, what do you expect? [Identity theft] increases the pressure for organisations like banks to come up with better solutions... You're never going to get anywhere with passwords -- you need hardware in the loop, whether that's mobile phones or chip and PIN, and you have to move from one- to two-factor authentication."

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