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Online ID trade

More than 12 million pieces of personal information were illegally traded online by identity fraudsters in the first four months of 2012, a credit checking company suggests.  Research from Experian CreditExpert’s web monitoring service – to combat ID theft – shows that the first four months of 2012 have already outstripped the entire of 2010 when 9.5 million pieces of personal information were illegally traded. About 90 per cent of the illegally traded data during January to April this year consisted of password and login combinations.  This rise is thought to be in part due to consumers having a spiralling number of online accounts.  

 

 

Experian CreditExpert says that its new web monitoring service continuously monitors the web on behalf of its customers – to detect the theft, loss or disclosure of vital personal and financial information.  Other consumer research commissioned by Experian CreditExpert suggests that the average Briton now has 26 online accounts with 25 to 34-year olds being the most prolific, with no fewer than 40.

 

The number of online accounts is set to grow further, the firm says, with nearly one in five of Britons (17 per cent) signing up to six or more new accounts every month, making Brits more vulnerable to the possibility of having personal password and login details stolen. Despite this, Britons use an average of only five passwords to keep their details safe, with a quarter (24 per cent) using a single password for the majority of profiles, and one in 25 (four per cent) sticking with the same log-in details for all their accounts. Many people are potentially putting themselves further at risk by no longer using many of their accounts, resulting in passwords not being changed regularly. In fact, two thirds of adults (66 per cent) admit to having defunct profiles that hold valuable personal and financial information, including social network profiles (26 per cent), email addresses (18 per cent) and shopping accounts (21 per cent).

 

Peter Turner, Managing Director at Experian Consumer Services in the UK and Ireland, said: “The reason password and log-in combinations make up nine out of ten illegally traded pieces of data is because they give access to a huge amount of other valuable information, such as address books and related accounts. Using a different password for each account will minimise risks, but if password information is stolen from a website, all accounts using the same details will be compromised, and this information can spread among fraudsters rapidly. 

 

“Users need to protect themselves with a service like CreditExpert’s web monitoring, which will alert them by text or email at the first signs that their details have been compromised.”The threat of identity fraud is certainly real, with some two million people having fallen victim. The consequences are often serious, many victims having debts run up in their name (nine per cent) The research also found that others have been refused loans or credit cards (14 per cent) or turned down for mobile phone contracts (seven per cent) – often the first that a victim knows of their identity having been stolen. As a solution, as well as using Experian CreditExpert’s new web monitoring service, people are advised to keep a close eye on their personal information and on their credit report for any signs of unusual activity.

 

Advice 

 

Avoid the obvious: 

According to Experian CreditExpert research, 20 per cent of us use the name of a pet as our password. Avoid using memorable words like these, especially those that may be on your profile or used elsewhere in your account details, such a security question.

Find the right length: 

Try to keep passwords at least eight characters in length – 10 or more is preferable. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack.

Mix it up: 

Try to include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Rather than words, use the initial letter of a memorable sentence. “I need to choose a new password right now” could become “In2c@nPrN”.

Find a system: 

Having a unique password for all your accounts can be daunting, but a good approach can be to base passwords on lyrics of your favourite songs or lines from films, giving a sequence of passwords that you can work through.

Keep an eye on your credit report: 

It’s a history of all your credit accounts and will highlight any irregularities such as people applying for loans or cards in your name. This is often the first way that you will know your details have been leaked.


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