Social media is a modern phenomenon that the younger generation has grown up with and couldn’t imagine life without.
While enabling them to keep up with friends, family, celebrity gossip and the goings-on in the current reality TV show of choice, it also has its sinister side, with many in the 18- to 24-year-old age group falling victim to a range of scams.
With this year’s Scams Awareness Month running through July, the latest figures show that reports of online scams and fraud are up, with an some 3.6 million cases (an 8% rise), resulting in an estimated loss of almost £11bn, with under-25s being specifically targeted.
The fraud prevention organisation Cifas found that the number of identity fraud victims aged 30 and under was up by 52% in 2015. It also found that 50% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they would never fall for an online scam, compared to 37% of the public as a whole. And Action Fraud reported that, in 2015, there was an increase on the previous year in the number of people approached on Instagram.
Identity fraud has been growing steadily over the past 10 years according to the 2016 Annual Fraud Indicator and is estimated to cost the UK £5.4bn per year. Ways in which people are leaving themselves open to identity fraud include accessing Wi-Fi that is not password protected, not having antivirus software installed on their devices, and using the same password for multiple accounts.
Action Fraud, the City of London Police, Cifas and Equifax have launched an identity fraud campaign with hashtag #AreYouOneofThem. The campaign is urging people to be more vigilant to help protect themselves from fraudsters, and offers the following tips to help keep you safe.
- Checking privacy settings across all the social media channels you use. Think twice before you share your details, in particular your full date of birth, your address, contact details.
- Password-protect your devices. Keep passwords complex by picking three random words.
- Install anti-virus software on your laptop and other personal devices – and keep it up to date.
- Take care on public Wi-Fi – fraudsters hack or minic them. If using one, avoid accessing sensitive apps such as mobile banking.
- Download updates to your software when you device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“Young people have grown up surrounded by technology, and as a result are some of the most confident digital users in our communities.
“However, while that confidence is good, it can lead to them feeling complacent about their capacity to be successfully targeted, and actually increase their vulnerability to scams.
“Citizens Advice research shows that more than half of young people are unlikely to report scams, but that has to change if instances of this worrying trend are to be reduced.”
Croydon’s trading standards team will be at the venues below, between noon and 2pm, providing free advice on tackling scams and avoiding doorstep crime.
- Wednesday 12 July – Croydon Central library, Katharine Street, Croydon
- Friday 14 July – NatWest Bank, 1 High Street, Croydon
- Friday 21 July – Barclays Bank, Ambassador House, 1 Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath
More information about scams can be found on the Citizens Advice website at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/campaigns/current_campaigns/scams-awareness-month/
If you think you have uncovered, been targeted by, or become victim of, a scam, there are many authorities you can contact for advice or to make a report.
Reporting crime, including fraud, is important. Failure to tell the authorities means they cannot know it has happened and can do nothing about it. If you are a victim of a scam or an attempted scam, however minor, there may be hundreds or thousands of others in a similar position. Your information may form part of a jigsaw and might be vital to completing the picture.
In the Metropolitan Police area, all fraud should be reported directly to Action Fraud online at http://www.actionfraud.org.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
If a crime is in progress or about to be committed, the suspect is known or can be easily identified, or the crime involves a vulnerable victim, the police should be contacted directly by dialling either 999 in an emergency, or 101 in a non-emergency.