Cases of identity fraud in the U.K. reached an all-time high last year, with a record 172,919 identity fraud cases recorded in 2016.
According to a report, the new figures come from Cifas, the non-profit data sharing and prevention agency. The 172,919 identity fraud cases in 2016 were higher than in any other year. Identity fraud accounts for more than half of all fraud recorded by Cifas. Of the total fraud, Cifas found 88 percent occurs online.
“With close to half of all crime now either fraud or cybercrime, we all need to make sure we protect our identity,” said Chris Greany, the City of London Commander. “Identity fraud is the key to unlocking your valuables. Things like weak passwords or not updating your software are the same as leaving a window or door unlocked.”
According to the report, the bad guys are using a variety of tools and techniques to access unsuspecting consumers’ identifying data. Some of those tactics include stealing mail via online hacking, buying data on the so-called dark web and exploiting people’s personal information on social media or via social engineering where people are tricked into giving up personal information to someone pretending to be their bank, a government official or even a friend.
While identity theft may have hit an all-time high in the U.K., it is also a big problem in the states. So much so that earlier this year Symantec acquired LifeLock to combat identity theft for its customers. Symantec said in February when completing the deal that more than one-third of Americans and more than 650 million people globally were victims of cybercrime in 2016 alone, making digital safety a top concern for consumers. In fact, it is an estimated $10 billion market. Identity theft allows thieves to steal personal information (such as Social Security numbers) and use it to then take over or open new accounts, file fake tax returns, rent or buy properties, and more. According to LifeLock, children are especially susceptible to identity theft because of their clean credit histories.