Identity Fraud: How At Risk Are You?

A recent study here in the UK found that the number of identity fraud cases in 2016 was the highest it has ever been, and honestly, I’m not surprised. The rise in fraud and the targeted demographics (younger consumers) shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who works in cybersecurity, identity and access management, or financial services. And the reasons why shouldn’t either.

Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk.

Today, we have a stronger online presence than ever before, and as such, our digital social interactions are higher than at any time in the past. We have these tiny supercomputers that live in our pockets that we access all of these interactions from, and on these devices, we have two, even three times the number of apps that we store information than we did even three years ago.

And for every app, every social media account, and every device we have a password that we use to “protect” it. And this combination of increased only social presence and rising number of passwords means the threat landscape is growing exponentially. We set rules for resetting and strengthening passwords, but these steps simply aren’t enough to keep up with the rapid increase in challenges to cybersecurity.

So how at risk are we, and what can we do about it?

There are several key factors we need to think about when assessing our risk for identity fraud: The number of online accounts we have, what we share on social media, the privacy settings of our social media accounts, and our financial awareness. The more apps and social accounts you have, the more readily available the personal information you post on them is to the public. If you leave your accounts wide open, with zero privacy settings in place, any hacker can find out that personal information just by visiting your Facebook page. And, if you don’t regularly check your accounts, including your bank account, you won’t catch fraudulent activity as quickly.

These factors play into exactly why younger consumers are driving this increase in identity fraud. Younger users are more dialed into having digital lives, so they’re more comfortable having 30 or 40 apps installed on their devices, sharing information on social media, and using five or six social accounts at once. This provides significantly more information for a hacker to gain access to. And younger users are far less financially aware, on average, making them less likely to monitor their bank accounts and credit, making it easier for a hacker to leverage that personal information to attack them.

These are the risks that are driving the identity fraud trend, so what can we do to stem it? Share less private information on social media — we frequently see our friends sharing surveys that include questions like “what street did you grow up on,” or “what was your first car?” Then we turn around and use the same questions for our “security questions” for our passwords. If we don’t share that information in the first place hackers can’t use it to gain access to our accounts. The next best thing is to change the privacy settings to only show personal details to people you’ve actually added as friends. This isn’t a foolproof solution, but it’s a good start. Finally, monitor your credit and bank accounts regularly for erroneous activity, and act accordingly if you do see something suspicious.