Why you're a target for identity fraud...and how to deal with i

Q: What’s more boring that than talking about identity fraud? 

A: Staying in on a Saturday night because of the missing £80 in your account.
 

Starting university is exciting. Moving into halls, finding out what Fresher’s Week events are on, spending your first lecture checking everyone out, exploring your new city/town/beach/Nandos. All good fun.

We get that talking about fraud is less fun. But like the tutor who gives you a 2,500 word assignment with a Monday deadline on a Friday, fraud has a disproportionate capacity to really ruin your weekend, and more. 

It’s a big misconception that you have to be old and rich to be targeted by fraudsters. Young people are falling victim to identity fraud in growing numbers, and faster than any other age group.

As a student, you’re a particular target for fraudsters. You’re taking out bank accounts, getting mobile phone deals, looking for accommodation. All these events are golden opportunities for a fraudster.

So think of this article as the lecture you really wished you hadn’t slept through when it came to exam time. Just being aware of why and how you are a target can be the difference between a week spent jollying around campus and a world of fraud pain.

Fine. What is identity fraud?

Identity fraud is when criminals steal your personal details and then apply for goods and services in your name. 
These tend to be things you need yourself: bank accounts, credit cards, mobile phones and so on. 

Sometimes you don’t even know there’s a Fake You wandering around buying Macs or running up bills in your name by phoning premium rate numbers in Barcelona until you can’t get credit, find your card declined or the debt collectors come knocking.

I hate the sound of Fake Me. How do they get my details?

Social media, computer malware and viruses, hacking, scams…all designed to ingeniously extract your personal information. 

Passport close

Fake Me sounds monstrous and sneaky. Can I outwit them?

It can take eight days of solid admin to sort out a single instance of identity fraud. EIGHT DAYS. And that’s just the one time - did we mention that fraudsters sell on personal details? And if you have been tricked into handing over money directly – for example, a direct cash transfer to an ‘owner’ of a holiday apartment, then you may not get any money back at all.

Sounds as though Fake Me is winning. I kind of wish I never started reading this

No, don’t quit yet – there are lots of ways you can protect against Fake You and reduce the risk. Start by thinking about your personal details as something precious. Whenever you can, protect them like tiny, adorable ducklings that lay diamond eggs…

But that’s impossible! I need to give away my personal details on an almost daily basis...

Fair point. If you stop sharing your details altogether you would miss out on lots of things and without online shopping, last-minute present shopping would revert to the nightmare before Christmas. 

There are lots of benefits from data sharing and the ease with which we live our lives online, so we’re not here to make ridiculous statements like ‘renounce the internet and live out your days in a cabin on Ben Nevis, with no 4G or Wi-Fi’. 

But just taking a moment to think about whether that 10% discount on your next purchase is really worth handing over your details for, or challenging people who ask for it if you think it’s unnecessary, can keep your information in safer hands. We’re constantly asked for our personal information and it’s easy to forget that, actually, it can be our choice. 

It’s not all online, either (just in case you had decided to scope out that cabin/mountain option). If you like your identity fraud retro, leaving letters with personal details lying around in communal buildings (like halls) or sitting in a packed pub reading out your card details to make a payment over the phone are a few vintage ways of getting your identity stolen.

Now you know what identity fraud is, it’s time to do something about it. Visit the Cifas website for an in-depth look at the scams, tricks and ploys used by fraudsters to create Fake You. You’ll be surprised…but you’ll be prepared. 

The Student Room provides guest spots to external contributors. This article has been provided by Leah Birch, external affairs team at Cifas. Cifas is the leading fraud prevention service in the UK.