Identity crime is a broad term that usually takes the form of identity theft. It often includes counterfeiting documents or misusing genuine identification and financial assets such as someone else’s bank card.
Once someone has gathered enough information to unlawfully create or steal an identity, they can use this to commit financial fraud. They can also travel undetected, fraudulently claim on insurance or benefits, and commit many more criminal activities.
Cifas, one of the UK’s leading fraud prevention services, revealed in their latest Fraudscape report that identity fraud was at an all-time high. In 2017, 174,523 cases were reported in the UK alone. A huge 95% of these cases involved the impersonation of an innocent individual.
But identity theft isn’t something that only affects individuals; it can also affect businesses.
Fraudsters can impersonate your business in many ways. Fraudulent businesses can use similar domain names, email addresses, and send false but convincing invoices to your clients. They may also try to steal your customers’ personal information if attempting to commit fraud on a larger scale.
So, how can this be avoided?
The good news is that there are many ways we can all protect ourselves against this type of crime. Read on for our five top ways to protect against identity theft.
Tip 1 – Secure Your Important Documents
One of the best ways you can protect your personal documents is to keep them secure. Store identifying documents such as your passport, birth certificate and insurance information in a locked container or safe. Keep these away from windows, or out of sight completely where possible.
This goes for businesses as well as individuals. Lock sensitive data away somewhere safe where people without authorisation cannot view it.
Tip 2 – Shred All Identifying Documents
If you no longer need your identifying documents, the best thing you can do is destroy them.
Many documents could put you at risk if not securely destroyed, including old car insurance information, old bank statements, old credit cards, expired passports and photo IDs. Destruction is the only method that will 100% guarantee these documents are completely safe from being stolen or misused. Even items that include small bits of information such as your date of birth may enable a criminal to access other information about you, as many UK companies such as banks will ask for date of births as part of their verification process.
It’s important to keep any personal information safe, or if no longer needed, ensure it is safely destroyed. Simply putting these items in a recycling or general waste bin will unfortunately not guarantee their security.
This is key for businesses too. Paper shredding any identifying documents manually in-house can be an arduous, time-consuming process, and could also result in a data breach.
Using shredding services such as the service provided by Shred Station will not only protect your identifying documents from fraud but can also save you or your organisation time and money in the long run. Our services are also eco-friendly, so you’ll be helping the environment, too!
Tip 3 – Shop Only on Secure Web Pages and Keep Antivirus Software Up-to-date
Whether you’re shopping for yourself or on behalf of your company, use only secure web pages. The two ways you can tell a web page is secure is looking for “https” in the address bar, and if there is a padlock graphic as seen in green below:
This means your data is encrypted and you are on a secure web page. If these signs are not present, it may mean your connection is not secure. This could leave your transaction data exposed to fraudsters.
Also ensure all of your antivirus, anti-malware, and firewall are kept up-to-date, as these updates may include fixes to any issues or vulnerabilities in past versions.
Tip 4 – Beware of Telephone and Phishing Scams
One way your personal information can be gathered for malicious intentions is through telephone and phishing scams. You can prevent this by never clicking on links or opening unfamiliar/unexpected attachments from emails, even if the sender appears to be legitimate. You should also be wary of bogus text messages which may come from someone pretending to be a familiar company. Be especially cautious if they are asking for immediate responses or asking you to click through links.
You should also be cautious of any telephone caller asking for your bank details over the phone. Many fraudsters will pose as an employee of a well-known charity, or even claim you’ve won a competition. Never give out your personal or banking details over the phone to an unexpected caller. This scam has been running for generations and is still used to steal identities.
Tip 5 – Destroy Unused Data Storage, Computing and Mobile Devices
With the progress of technology, we now store a lot of our personal information on computers, phones, and other storage devices. This includes sensitive documents, photographs, passwords, and scans of our IDs. Fraudsters will use this information to commit identity theft. Businesses are vulnerable too. Without securely disposing of old data storage devices, information is at risk.
Even once old devices are wiped, this information can still be recovered by an experienced fraudster if not disposed of safely. The best way to ensure your unused digital information is safe and minimise identity theft is to have these devices securely destroyed. This is another service we offer here at Shred Station, and you will receive a certificate of destruction for anything you have shredded with us for your own proof of compliance, and peace of mind.
If you’d like to read Cifas’ full Fraudscape 2018 report, you can do so by clicking here.
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