Fighting Fraudsters: How Consumers Can Shield Themselves From Identity Fraud

Fighting Fraudsters: How Consumers Can Shield Themselves From Identity Fraud

Global investigations firm Kroll offers top tips to help consumers protect their personal information during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

As identity fraud becomes an increasing threat, consumers need to educate themselves on how to protect their personal information, according Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps, the global leader in risk mitigation, investigations, compliance, cyber resilience, security and incident response solutions. 

The latest figures from CIFAS show that 2019 brought the highest ever number of identity fraud cases. While all types of fraud post serious challenges, identity fraud is one of the most potent. CIFAS reports that that there were over 223,000 cases of identity last year, 18% higher than 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing even more threats, with recent figures from Action Fraud showing that more than £7m has already been reported lost by over 2,000 victims of coronavirus-related scams.

Consumers are increasingly falling victim to a variety of identity fraud tactics, including misusing the identity of an innocent victim, exploiting bank account details, or obtaining personal information through phishing, SMS phishing (smishing) or extortion. These threats have been amplified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with government support schemes being duplicated and scammers taking advantage of people’s money-worries to try and commit fraud. With a growing number of avenues for criminals to steal personal information, consumers must be increasingly vigilant and need to be able to spot the signs of a scam.

To help those at risk, David White, Global Head of Operations, has put together some top tips to help consumers guard against identity fraud and stop fraudsters and scammers from obtaining their personal information or accessing their accounts:

Beware of Phishing

Phishing emails are a key tactic for scammers and have developed beyond the clumsy, poorly-written efforts of the past, but many still contain telltale signs of a scam, such as bad formatting and unofficial email addresses. Phishing emails are designed to convince consumers to click on a malicious link, so consumers should avoid following any links they do not recognize. Pay extra attention to an email that calls for immediate action such as requiring a payment to keep your energy on; scammers know that consumers are more likely to make a mistake if there’s urgency. The best way to root out the fakes is to independently check the information by logging into personal accounts on the company website—companies will often post a warning on their website if they are aware of the scam email. Smishing, where phishing is conducted via mobile devices, isn’t a new threat but is one which has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic, and represents another avenue where consumers need to be hyper vigilant. 

Activate Two-factor Authentication

Many online accounts offer two-factor authentication which can help to prevent online account takeover. Text messaging is the most popular second factor, but this is also vulnerable to takeover, so individuals should choose an alternative factor if one is available.

Sign Up for Activity Alerts From Your Financial Institution

Signing up for activity alerts with bank or credit card companies can alert consumers to any suspicious activity associated with their accounts. People are notified straight away and can prevent any further fraudulent charges or withdrawals. Do not delay in reporting suspected fraud to your bank and inquire about the possibility of closing the account in question. 

Set Up Identity and Credit Monitoring

People can register with an identity and credit monitoring service that will provide a warning if their personal data is under threat. Personal data is often traded on the dark web, and monitoring services focus on places where data is known to be bought and sold, and send alerts if personal data is identified. Credit monitoring services alert individuals if there has been a change to their credit profile such as new trade lines or hard credit inquiries. If individuals are concerned their information has been used fraudulently, a professional can determine the depth of fraud and assist with identity restoration.

Follow Password Security Best Practices

Individuals hear a lot of advice about creating strong, unique passwords for each account, but with the average person having 70-80 accounts, it’s difficult to remember them all and many individuals reuse passwords. Installing a password manager can help you generate and store passwords for all your accounts, on all your devices. While it won’t make it safe to use common passwords like QWERTY or your dog’s name, it can suggest an alternative that’s nearly impossible to guess. 

David White comments: “When it comes to avoiding identity fraud, the best thing consumers can do is employ caution and a critical eye. Monitoring services and activity alerts are excellent ways to look out for threats in progress, and two-factor authentication can help to keep personal data secure.”

“It’s also important that people think carefully about supposedly official emails they receive. They should look out for telltale signs of fakery and double check any information by logging into online accounts before doing anything. Vigilance is vital now more than ever.”

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