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IDs for sale through social media

Scammers are selling people’s personal details through social media platforms, according to the consumer rights campaign group Which?. It found 50 scam profiles, pages and groups across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This included advertising stolen identities, credit card details, compromised Netflix and Uber Eats accounts and fake passports made to order. All were found easily by searching slang terms for fraud. Which? says that it’s concerned that its results – from before the coronavirus outbreak took hold in the UK – highlight how lax measures to prevent the trade of personal and financial information on these platforms could be exploited by criminals.

For instance, a post found on one illicit Facebook group detailed the identity of a man in Yorkshire. His full name, date of birth, address and mobile number were all listed alongside financial info; his credit card number, CVV number and expiry date, sort code and the name of his bank. The post had been up for four months when it was spotted by Which?, and the details were even being given away for free, potentially as a tactic designed to prove the seller’s credentials for future deals.

Using the open electoral roll, a researcher was able to establish that the victim had lived at the address listed in the Facebook post at least as recently as 2018, along with individuals whose names and ages implied they were his wife and adult children – demonstrating how easy it would be for a scammer to exploit the details available in the Facebook post.

Meanwhile, one fraudster on Twitter offered full credit card details of someone with a ‘£13k+ balance’ for £100, or three sets of card details for £200. Instagram users were sharing price lists detailing how much it would cost to acquire full identities, as well as ‘fraud bibles’. These comprehensive how-to guides for novice hackers and scammers explain how to create fake identities and use stolen card details. All 50 of the groups, pages and profiles were reported to their respective social media platforms via their in-site reporting tools.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, said: “It’s astonishing that social media sites make it so easy for criminals to trade people’s personal and financial information, particularly as fraud is such a prevalent crime that can have devastating consequences.

“Social media firms must take much stronger action to prevent their sites becoming a safe haven for scammers, and should work with the financial industry and police to address serious flaws with their platforms.”

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Joe Bloemendaal, Head of Strategy at identity verification product company Mitek says: “Social media platforms are a hotbed for fraudsters. Scam accounts advertising stolen identities and people’s personal details are running rampant on our social media feeds. This threat needs to be stamped out.

“Just last week, the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos suggested that we should verify the identities of every social media user in the UK. If social media platforms verified users’ identities, they would know that we are really who we say we are when we sign up. This would help curb online scammers, identity theft, and fraud, as well as trolling and even fake news.

“When creating an account, users can upload a selfie and a picture of an ID document, like a passport or drivers’ license. Identity verification technologies are then used to check the document for forgery, and verify that the selfie and ID photo belong to the same person. ‘Liveness detection’ adds another layer of protection, ensuring that the selfie is being taken there and then by the users. However, with billions of us already signed up to the major platforms, it won’t be enough to simply verify new users. The platforms could also prompt existing users to go through the same process when they log onto the app as a ‘rebinding’ exercise.

“But there is a spanner in the works for well-meaning social platforms: 75 per cent of consumers distrust social media platforms with their identity, according to our data. As such, creating an independent, non-governmental body to verify identities on social media would circumvent this mistrust. This would be a major step in reducing the threat of fraud online, and stamping out scammers for good.”

The UK think-tank Demos launched a paper What’s in a name? calling for a new approach to how we protect our identities online.


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