Identity theft reaches epidemic levels. Guard your personal details.

Trading Standards Officers

Posted on: 23 August 2017

Identity theft is reaching epidemic levels, warns fraud prevention group, Cifas.

“We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year….with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day,” says Cifas Chief Executive, Simon Dukes.

Fraudsters are obtaining personal information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details, by hacking computers, trawling social media, stealing mail, tricking people to disclose their details, or buying information through the ‘dark web’.

And they’re using it to pretend to be that individual for their own financial gain, applying for loans or store cards in their name for example.

According to Cifas, ‘vast amounts’ of personal data is available online; and statistically, victims are more likely to be in their 30s and 40s, often because of the amount of information about them that has been gathered online.

“The thing is, most people – most victims – will be totally unaware that information about them has been taken by someone else,” says Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Services Manager Steve Gardiner.

“And it’s only when they spot an unexplained transaction on their statement, or they get a call from the bank to query an attempted transaction, that they realise.  And sometimes that’s too late.”

So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim of ID theft, and fraud arising from it?

•    Take care about the amount of personal information that you voluntarily post online, particularly to social media sites.  Think about what someone else might be able to do with that information about you if they found it online.   Be aware and check, especially before you post your address or date of birth, that you are using an official and secure website.

•    Use anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes, and keep your computer’s firewall up to date.  Most threats to cyber security can be removed by using these.

•    Don’t ever share your passwords. Passwords are your first line of defence against cyber criminals online, so don’t share them or write them down.  The same is true for Personal Identification Numbers (PINs).  Don’t share that either.   Here’s an article on Martin Lewis’, Money Saving Expert website, about password security,

•    Make passwords and PINs ‘strong’.  Don’t use your date of birth, your child’s or pet’s name; and try to include a mix of characters – upper and lower case, and numbers.  Aim for a minimum of 10 characters in a password.

•    Don’t use the same password or PIN for more than one account.

•    Shred all your financial documents before your throw them away.

More information about guarding your personal details is available on Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service’s website,

8 comments on “Identity theft reaches epidemic levels. Guard your personal details.

  1. Ian says:

    Given the number of organisations that we have a relationship with (I have counted 345 in our case: financial institutions, stores, official bodies, utilities, clubs and societies, social media, charities…) the idea of having a separate password for each is a non-starter! So we have to record them somehow – disguised and away from prying eyes, and secured by various means. neither of the main options is ideal: write them down and risk compromising them; or, try to memorise them and wind up forever using ‘forgotten password’ links. We have a mix of ‘significant’ sites that warrant a separate password each (eg banking and official ones), and a ‘standard’ p/w that serves organisations where less damage would be caused if they were acquired by the ne’er-do-wells.

    And it doesn’t help that some organisations don’t support strong password practice, disallowing the use of special characters. And one or two even let you set a p/w with special characters, but then refuse to recognise them when next accessing the site! Barmy.

  2. David says:

    Sorry for typos, it’s my computer deciding for me, should have read “it’s all very well, and ” don’t write it down.

  3. David says:

    It’s all the world asking everybody to keep a separate password for each account they use on the Internet, don’t let it down, and make it a difficult one with more than 10 letters and numbers on it. All that, and don’t Write it down,and change it Regularl. Any tips on how to do that.
    Not a criticism, but a genuine dilemma.

    • mike.bomford says:

      Hi David. It’s difficult isn’t it? There’s lots of advice online about passwords – what makes a good one, and ways/techniques to remember them – so that’s a good place to start looking. Certainly the advice is to use a mix of upper and lower case and numbers, and to update passwords regularly. Recalling them is difficult though, I know. One suggestion I’ve read is to take the first letters from a line in a song (or poem perhaps) that you’re very familiar with, and use that as a password. It’s a thought. Thanks.

    • David says:

      Thanks Mike
      I like the idea of a song title, and I suspect if you where to pick an old fashioned song it would make it even more difficult, as scammers tend to be young. Still the problem with remembering lots of passwords that you have to keep constantly changing and not writing them down.

      Thanks for all your other advice,
      Dave, I agree, l bought 5 of the card protectors for peanuts on the internet and tested them at out local post office and they do the job fine.

  4. jan says:

    We were advised by the experts on radio 2 to day NOT to follow links such as this from emails as that’s where the fraudsters kick in!

  5. Dave Griffin says:

    Keep your bank cards in between loyalty cards so that they cannot be read by a scanner, or use a wallet that prevents cards being read. Change your PIN regularly. Mark debit and credit cards with a just about legible false PIN. Thieves are so greedy that they will head straight for the nearest ATM and the card will be swallowed and not returned following attempts to guess whether a 3 or an 8 is the correct number. Also, a wonderfully clear video will be taken of the tea leaf.

Posted in: Community | DCC Homepage