Two in five British adults affected by data breaches

  • Security , Data
  • 20.07.2015 01:00 am

42% of British adults have had their personal information compromised by an organisation potentially putting them at risk of identity theft or identity fraud. Of these almost two thirds (64%) are concerned that it could happen to them again in the future. However, despite their levels of concern, many remain unaware of even the most basic steps that they should take to safeguard their own personal information online.54% of those who have been told their information may have been lost or stolen through a data breach did not even change the password on that account in spite of being informed by the organisation.

Just a third (35%) changed the passwords on other online accounts to further protect their identity from the risk of identity theft and fraud and a worrying 83% made no change whatsoever to their online behaviour having been notified that their personal information had been compromised.

The City of London Police revealed in their ‘Not With My Name’ campaign that one in four UK adults – 12.275 million people – are believed to have fallen victim to identity crime losing on average £1200 each. While it’s never possible to know how a fraudster has obtained your personal information to commit identity theft, being affected by a data breach means your details are in the public domain, and could ended up being traded illegally online by fraudsters, or used by the fraudsters themselves to commit identity-related crimes. With both data breaches and identity theft on the increase, protecting your online identity from fraudsters has never been more important, particularly if you’ve been notified by an organisation that your information may have been compromised.

Amir Goshtai, Managing Director, Affinity, Experian Consumer Services, commented: “Despite a considerable number of people being affected by data breaches and cyber-attacks, it appears that many still don’t understand the importance of protecting their own information online. Almost 7 in 10 people think the responsibility to protect their information is the sole responsibility of a service provider – when in reality this is only half the battle. While service providers have an obvious duty to protect the information they hold, we’ll only make progress in the fight against fraudsters if individuals and organisations join forces to protect personal information.”

The research found that people attribute the lowest levels of responsibility to social media sites (49%) to protect their information online, with a third recognising that they and social media providers have an equal responsibility to protect their personal information. However, this recognition of shared responsibility doesn’t extend to other service providers, with those surveyed believing the Government (84%), banks (83%), insurance (81%) and utility providers (80%) have sole responsibility to protect their information.

“If a fraudster gets their hands on the password to one of your accounts, not changing the password on your other accounts is like giving a burglar who has a key to your house instructions to find your most valuable possessions. The good news is that advances in technology mean that more fraud than ever is being intercepted; however, fraudsters continue to set the pace and it’s up to all of us to make it as difficult as possible for them to succeed by taking simple steps to protect our personal information online every day,” Amir Goshtai continued.

City of London Police Commander Steve Head, who is the National Police Coordinator for Economic Crime:

“People across the UK are having their personal information stolen online, often unknowingly, which is then being used by criminals to commit further criminality, to evade detection from law enforcement and to help launder the proceeds of crime.

“To really get to grips with identity crime requires all of us to come together and share advice and best practice on how to most effectively protect our personal information. Following the top tips provided by the ‘Not With My Name’ campaign will help people better understand some of the simple steps they can take in their day-to-day lives that will help keep their identities safe and combat these criminals.

Simple steps from Experian that can help protect you from ID theft:

·         Online Passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts and change your passwords every couple of months. Strong passwords should avoid words from the dictionary. Consider using the first letter of each word in a memorable phrase instead, and add a number. If you are notified that your information may have been compromised, change your passwords on the affected account and other accounts immediately.

·         Emails:  If an email seems suspicious, contact the relevant organisation and don’t give out personal details. A reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email. Keep your devices’ security settings (including computers, smartphones, tablets) up to date to help prevent phishing emails and other malware threats.

·         On the move: Be smart with your smartphone and be aware of the information that is stored – including emails that can be accessed without a password. Protect your device with a home screen lock. Also remember that public networks and open Wi-Fi hotspots are riskier than private networks, so be conscious of the information you access via these networks.

·         Credit wise: Fraudsters operate to make money. Therefore, one of the first places people notice they have been the victim of fraud is by spotting changes to their credit report if credit has been applied for under false pretences. Monitor your credit report and bank statement regularly as it will help you spot any suspicious activity as early as possible to avoid financial loss.

·         Know where your details go: Web monitoring tools can monitor the wider web for mentions of your personal information 24/7, sending you an instant notification if your information appears somewhere new. This helps ensure you can take immediate steps together to resolve any potential fraudulent activity before you are negatively impacted.

People who think they have become victims of identity theft should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or, contact their bank and check their credit report. Experian's Victims of Fraud service is also available to fraud victims, and has a dedicated team to give expert advice and support tailored to their particular circumstances.

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