Identity Theft in the U.K. More Than Doubles in a Year

Computer screens display the Facebook sign-in screen, Golden, Colorado, July 28, 2015. Reuters

The number of victims of identity theft in the U.K. aged 30 and under rose by 52 percent in 2015, figures released Tuesday revealed.

Fraud prevention organization Cifas collated data from 261 companies across Britain. In 2015, just under 24,000 people aged 30 and under were victims of identity fraud—up from 15,766 in 2014, and more than double the 11,000 victims in this age bracket in 2010. The majority of frauds—85 percent—were carried out on the Internet.

Financial identity fraud occurs when a person poses as someone else, using their details to complete a purchase or take out a loan. The data can be accessed by well-trained hackers, but also by amassing information from a variety of social media channels.

"Fraudsters are opportunists," Simon Dukes, chief executive at Cifas, said in a statement. "As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people's details instead.

"Society, government and industry all have a role in preventing fraud; however, our concern is that the lack of awareness about identity fraud is making it even easier for fraudsters to obtain the information they need."

Dukes emphasized the importance of thinking carefully about what personal data one shares online, and adjusting relevant privacy settings on social media platforms like Facebook.

He said: "The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites—they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves. We are urging people to check their privacy settings today and think twice about what they share… To a fraudster, the information we put online is a goldmine."

The Get Safe Online website offers advice and guidance, including not giving away details such as phone numbers, addresses or even date of birth.

"Anything you put online can be used against you," Stephen Shepherd, ‎operations and media consultant at the U.K. Safer Internet Centre tells Newsweek. "Keep your privacy setting as high as possible. Your friends and family could be giving information out about you on Facebook for example.

"Social media channels can help people understand the dangers, but ultimately it comes down to the user, who must understand that there is only one privacy setting on the Internet, and that's public."

Cifas has released a short film, Data to Go, to document and raise awareness of identity fraud.

A report published in May estimated that the annual cost of fraud in the U.K. was £193 billion ($252 billion). Fraud carried out against businesses amounted to £144 billion ($189 billion); fraud against individuals was approximately £9.7bn ($12.8 billion).