Social media activities fuel growth in identity fraud

A high social media presence increases the ease with which criminals can steal your identity for online fraud

Card fraud in the UK rose 41 percent last year to reach 82,608 cases, representing 44 percent of all fraud cases (189,108) cases recorded by Cifas in its annual fraud report.

"In today’s world, much of what we do is online. Not only is it an easy and convenient way for us to do everyday tasks such as banking and shopping, but it also provides a way for us to network on both a professional and personal level," said the Cifas report. "Ofcom research in 2018 revealed that nine in 10 adults use the internet, with more than three-quarters having a presence on social media or messaging sites and apps."

According to the report, senior citizens were more vulnerable to fall for card fraud, with more than 33,000 victims ofto identity fraud in 2018. Among those under 21, the number was nearly 3,000. About 65 percent of the victims had some sort of a social media presence, allowing scam artists to harvest crucial personal data.

"Younger victims of impersonation had a high social media presence and could easily have their identities pieced together through information available on various sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. In such cases, their details were being used by fraudsters primarily for payday loans and mobile phone contracts," said the report.

"Of particular interest was that personal information had not just been stolen from profiles that were currently used, but also profiles that were no longer in use but had not been deactivated and deleted. Such profiles are often forgotten about, but remain in the public domain, revealing a wealth of personal information," it added

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the incidence of user documents exposed online has phenomenally increased. Security company Digital Shadows last month released its report titled ‘Too Much Information: The Sequel’, which found 2.3 billion exposed files in online file stores, including customer data such as passport scans and bank statements, as well as business information such as credentials to company systems.

"In our ‘Too Much Information’ report published last year, we spotted just over 1.5 billion files, thinking that alone was incredible. Using the same proprietary research technology, we’ve now detected an additional 750 million files," said the report. Out of these, 98 million personal data reports were from the UK, it added.

Third-party and supply-chain leaks have also added to their bit in worsening the situation, said the Digital Shadows report. Over 1,000 security practitioners surveyed for the report in the United States and the United Kingdom said that 59 percent of their organisations had been hit by a data breach because of a third party.

"Gone is the myth that personal information is just sold on the dark web," said the Cifas report. "This research shows that forums on the normal surface web play a pivotal role in the illicit trade of personal information. In one forum that had ostensibly been set up for sharing problems about telecommunications, 98 percent of the posts in one month were in relation to selling personal information."

Identity fraud has become easier to perpetrate than ever, said Mark Crichton, senior director at US-based cyber-security company OneSpan.

"Various factors – the shift to online banking, social media profiles laden with personal information, and regular data breaches – mean that our personal data is strewn across the web. It’s remarkably simple now for criminals to get hold of everything they need to hack accounts or make fraudulent bank or loan applications," he said.

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