More than 3,000 new cases of identity fraud have been identified since this time last year, bringing the total number of victims in Ireland to 90,000.
New research brought out in conjunction with National Fraud Week, 12-18 October, reveals 51pc of Irish people are still not sure how fraudsters get access to personal information as the number of victims increase.
The research, commissioned by Fellowes in Ireland, points out that while awareness is at an all-time high, the Irish public is continuing to put itself at risk.
While 92pc of people consider themselves to be at risk from identity fraud, a significant proportion of us still lack the knowledge needed to protect ourselves, including knowing how fraudsters get access to our personal information (51pc) and the measures we can take to prevent ID fraud (49pc).
How identity fraud happens
Identity fraud can happen in a number of ways: theft of a handbag or wallet, unsolicited contact or even bin raiding, where fraudsters go through rubbish bins to retrieve personal information. The study showed that whilst the Irish public was largely aware of the issue, many individuals were not taking adequate steps to protect themselves.
As part of the national drive to make the public and businesses more aware of the dangers of identity fraud and the simple steps people can take to protect themselves, the campaign has launched a dedicated website – www.stop-idfraud.ie – with such advice:
· Rubbish bins in Ireland are a goldmine for fraudsters, as 77pc of us throw out information which could be used to steal our identities. Always shred anything (preferably using a cross-cut shredder) containing personal or financial information, like utility bills, and bank and credit-card statements, before throwing them away.
· Use the official An Post redirection service when moving house and investigate stray post: only 48pc of people look into why expected mail has failed to arrive.
· Always report lost documents, such as passports or driving licences, immediately: 66pc of the population already adheres to this, but that leaves 34pc placing their identities at risk of fraud.
Identity-fraud victim consequences
“During these difficult financial times crime is on the rise and it is more important now than ever to protect yourself from identity fraud,” said Ciaran Dunne of Fellowes Ireland.
“People still don’t seem to realise that their identity is their most valuable possession – if it falls into a fraudster’s hands, not only might loans, mortgages and credit cards become difficult to obtain, but vast bills can be racked up and, most frighteningly, other fraudulent crimes can be committed using a stolen identity.
“We must all take every possible step to protect our identities – by acting responsibly online, carefully monitoring our post, securely storing sensitive documents and shredding all paper documents before disposing of them.”
Identity-fraud risk on the job
The survey found that 95pc of employees admitted the identities of employees or customers could be at risk where they work. Nine out of 10 Irish people said they were not completely confident that the organisations they dealt with treated their personal information in such a way that it would not accidentally fall into the hands of identity fraudsters.
“Fraudsters make a living out of obtaining information so they are always one step ahead,” explained Greg Connell, head of the Irish Fraud Bureau.
“Some of the most common activities we see are fraudulently obtained documentation, which has either been stolen or forged and is then used to obtain financial services. However, consumers also need to be wary of emails or letters supposedly from a lottery or bank asking for personal information, ATM scams and shop assistants copying personal details from credit cards.
“It’s vital to make it as difficult as possible for fraudsters to obtain this information. If you suspect your details have been compromised, contact the relevant authorities so they are on the alert when the information is used,” Connell said.
The Fellowes research also revealed that businesses are being just as complacent with identities as individuals, with more than a third of businesses in Ireland not having a clear or comprehensive policy in place to deal with identity fraud – the second lowest in Europe behind Belgium.
Nearly two-thirds (63pc) of Irish workers believe employees’ and customers’ identities could be obtained from company bins, which is unsurprising as almost one-third of employees who have access to a shredder admitted they don’t use it.
“Irish businesses need to be aware of their responsibilities when it comes to data protection and ensure they are doing everything they can to safeguard the information that has been entrusted to them,” said Patricia Callan, director of the Small Firms Association.
“While having a data-protection policy in place is vital, the survey shows that, even where there is a system in place, employees are not always sure of the details so regular staff training sessions to inform employees about the importance of shredding, data encryption, etc, are also hugely important.”
By John Kennedy
Photo: Some 51pc of Irish people are still not sure how fraudsters get access to personal information, research commissioned by Fellowes in Ireland suggests.