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Men more likely to have had identity stolen than women, survey suggests

Men are around twice as likely as women to have had their identity stolen, a survey suggests.

More than one in 10 (11%) women said their identity had been stolen, with nearly a quarter (23%) of men also saying this, Nationwide Building Society found.

Of those who said their identity was stolen, a third (33%) said it had been used to order goods such as a mobile phone or a vehicle in their name.

More than a quarter (27%) said it was used to access or steal from their accounts.

One in five (20%) said it was used to borrow money in their name, such as by taking out a credit card or a personal loan.

Nearly a fifth (19%) said their details were used by criminals as part of a scam to impersonate their bank or building society or a public organisation, such as the police, to trick them out of their money.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of men surveyed were concerned about becoming a victim of identity fraud, compared with seven in 10 (70%) women.

Women were more likely to say they protect all their social media accounts, with 63% doing so compared with 50% of men.

Women were also less likely to have friends or followers on social media that they have never met, with 37% of women having these compared with 53% of men.

Nationwide warned that oversharing information on social media can make people vulnerable to fraud.

Its survey of more than 3,000 people across the UK that found full names, ages, dates of birth, email addresses, mobile numbers and job titles were among the most common items shared.

This information can be pieced together by criminals.

Some people shared their pets’ names, which could give criminals clues about their passwords or security questions.

Some people also shared their address or postcode.

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Ed Fisher, head of fraud policy at Nationwide Building Society, said: “While it’s good to see that identity theft is at the front of people’s minds, our survey shows a worrying lack of steps taken by people to protect themselves.

“We urge everyone to be vigilant by protecting their details and observing a few basic tips – don’t overshare your information unnecessarily, consider who is following your online activity, and protect your devices and accounts with both security software and strong passwords or codes that are not the same.

“Don’t provide information to anyone contacting you unexpectedly, or respond to emails or texts requesting information, without checking carefully they are genuine. Also make sure to cancel or report lost or stolen cards immediately and regularly check statements and credit files for any issues.

“It is only by taking precautionary steps that we can hope to prevent this type of fraud from occurring.

“The less we give the criminals, the less chance they have of striking. Our identity is precious, and criminals sometimes need only a few pieces of personal data to begin targeting you further.”

People should contact their bank, building society or card provider immediately if they are worried they have become the victim of fraud, as well as reporting it to the police.

Nationwide has a dedicated freephone number for members to report if they believe they have been a victim on 0800 055 66 22.

Here are some tips from Nationwide to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

1. Never give out your personal details unnecessarily

This includes your account number, sort code, pin, password, card reader passcodes and any one-time codes. When giving out your account number and sort code to receive a payment, make sure you are giving it to a trustworthy person. Never share data, such as your pin or a one-time code with anyone.

2. Use strong passwords for all your accounts

A strong password needs to be unique to each account. Try not to use the same one for different accounts.

Nationwide recommends that a strong password should also be at least 12 characters long, contain numbers and symbols as well as letters, and not use any of your personal information. That means not using words such as a relative’s name, your street address or pet’s name.

3. Cancel or report lost or stolen cards or other ID documents

If your card, passbook or chequebook has been lost or stolen, cancel or freeze it immediately.

If your passport, driving licence or other ID is lost or stolen, report it to the
organisation it is from straight away.

Ensure items used for banking are kept away from shared or communal spaces whenever possible.

4. Protect yourself and your money online

Install virus checkers onto all devices. This includes your computer, laptop, phone and tablet. And remember to regularly check for updates or set them up to automatically update.

5. Be careful when using social media

Check your privacy settings to make sure only those you trust can view your account and posts.

6. Be wary when using your card in public

Take care when using public wi-fi and check you are not being listened to or that people can see your information.

7. Check your credit report regularly

There are lots of credit reference agencies available. Some are free and some will email you regular updates.

Checking your credit score can help keep you safe. Unexpected credit agreements, surprise loans or a sudden drop in a credit score are tell-tale signs of identity fraud.

8. Keep paper documents safe 

If you keep paper financial records, only keep what is necessary – and keep them securely. Safely shred any statements and receipts you do not need.

9. Consider going paperless

Switching to paperless statements may also help to reduce the chances of sensitive details fall into the wrong hands.

10. Redirect your post when you move home

Before moving home, make a list of the companies that have your address. And make sure you update all of them as soon as you move. You can ask Royal Mail to redirect post to your new address.