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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-26-08

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page


Epidemic levels of ID theft

IN the UK identity theft has reached epidemic levels, warns Cifas, a not for profit organisation that shares fraud prevention tips between businesses and public bodies. Over the last 2 years we have been following a number of dating websites, which have repeatedly been using images stolen from Facebook and other online sites, including on our newspaper. These images are then used to impersonate or make a fake identity seem real. Sadly, this is commonplace and increasingly more and more so.

Access to personal information online is very easy to obtain; from mother's maiden name to where you were born along with pet names... All the types of things banks ask for ID! Other tricks include using fake dating sites to get personal information that can lead to you giving your mobile number or more to fraudsters. Sadly this, for those who have their images stolen, creates major issues for them. How do friends know if that that profile is really you? Also who has been contacted using your information or photos? All this is a major problem for victims on both sides of the scams.

This week even Robert Downey Junior has gone on record saying fans need to be aware of scam artists impersonating him online and asking for money. Yet for businesses who are starting up as well as those who are trying to tackle the problem, how do you ask people for personal information which will ensure that the person addressed is genuine, if fraudsters are able to continually undermine trust. Our editor has experienced ID theft and the issues that result from it.

Often the law focuses on financial identity theft, as it is the easiest to track and identify, as those affected often receive a random bill or realise their credit rating has slumped. This would prevent them getting a loan of their own. Sadly, most people who have images and profiles stolen are often unaware that they had been targeted until they experience issues with people contacting them using other names, or they spot their image on the likes of Google. 

Many victims might think that their personal images are stolen via stealing mail, hacking computers, but shockingly it is often just using photos and information trawled from social media, which often is used to trick people into giving details that expose them to fraud. Mainly down to the fact all your information is available freely, meaning they have a open template to make a fake ID.

Some of these scams are also connected to fake news stories, some of which sound incredibly convincing, like those that that used a well know YouTuber's face, after the Manchester bombings. Even businesses have been targeted, and it's not just "spoof" or "phishing" or profiles that are a problem... Often for businesses, "joke" profiles and "parody" or "satire" ones can, and often do, cause trouble; we have had experience of this, but shockingly the likes of Facebook and Twitter often do not take action against so called:- "entertainment" profile pages.  The problem is, what is just "fun" and "irony" and what is abuse or scam designed to course damage is  very fine line.

 In the UK the Faking social media accounts could lead to criminal charges against those who create them, for example phoney Facebook and Twitter accounts. In some cases the offender could also face charges including harassment and copyright theft. But considering the bigger picture when looking at evidence and examining both the online and offline behaviour, what is worrying is that we are becoming more and more open to becoming victims of what is now a common tactic of revenge, bullying and also of phishing crimes.

We are looking into this issue and are interested to know if you been affected by fake profiles or having your ID stolen? Please contact us via:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com and let us know. Also if you need advice, please also contact us for more information and we will try and point you to where you can get help in the UK. We would also like to know your ideas on how this epidemic can be tackled. If you do not want to be identified due to embarrassment or other issues, please let us know and we will keep all communications confidential, unless we feel you, or someone else is at risk.


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