More than 110 million pieces of data have been bought and sold by cyber criminals in 2014 to date, according to new research from Experian.
It highlights the risks of making personal information readily available online, and despite people’s best efforts the volume of illegally traded data is still soaring.
However, more can always be done to tackle fraudulent activity, especially given that Experian’s web tools suggest a 40% increase in ID theft, loss or disclosure of personal information compared to 2013.
Worse still, levels of illegal data trading are up 300% on 2012, in part thanks to a growing number of people venturing online.
Other data that was often the subject of illegal access was passport and payment card details – especially card numbers, expiry dates and security codes.
These are often the details required to make purchases online, making fraudulent activity using these cards possible.
Increased internet awareness
Despite the rise in illegal activity, the British public is becoming increasingly savvier when it comes to the internet.
However, a number of issues remain – possibly as a result of the large numbers of different accounts and details that people now have.
The average Briton now has 19 different online accounts, while those aged between 25 and 34 were found to have an average of 28 each.
One in six people sign up to five or more new accounts every month, suggesting that the sheer volumes of data available could be behind the rise in fraud.
Shutting down old accounts
The research shows that 18% of people claim to have inactive social media accounts that are still open – while this is down from 26% in 2012, it still means people are exposed to possible criminal activity.
Providing criminals with fewer opportunities is essential, so shutting down old accounts should be seen as a priority for those keen to prevent themselves falling victim to fraud.
Despite the large numbers of accounts, one in ten Britons use just seven passwords for all of them, making them increasingly vulnerable.
Worse still – one in 20 people use the same details for all of their accounts, meaning they could be hit hardest should their data fall into the wrong hands.
Using unique passwords for all sites is recommended while any suspicious emails or communications should be ignored….however tempting their offer may be.
Protecting financial information
Losing financial information can provide the biggest risks to fraudulent activity, so protecting online accounts is vital.
Risks relating to money can be further managed by using a prepaid card to manage funds – only the funds on the card at any moment can be spent.
Unlike credit and debit cards, prepaid cards are not directly linked to a bank account, making fraudulent activity a lot more difficult.
For those with concerns over their funds, transferring some to a prepaid card can also help to control spending, while the cards can be topped up if necessary and can be replaced if they are lost or stolen without funds being affected.