Fraudsters need just three details to steal your identity – and most of it can be found on Facebook
Fraudsters need just three key bits of information to steal your identity and access your accounts, take out loans, credit cards, mobile phones in your name.
All it takes is a name, date of birth and address – and most of this can be found on social media profiles, such as Facebook. And if your settings are not private, this is available for anyone to see.
A third of British adults with online profiles include their full name and date of birth, according to a YouGov survey.
Younger people are even more likely to display this information.
The survey revealed that 48pc of 18 to 24-year-olds divulge this information on social media sites compared to 28pc for those between 35 and 44.
Even if your date of birth isn’t displayed, fraudsters will be able to tell if your friends post birthday messages with reference to your age.
“It’s not hard to work out,” said John Marsden, head of ID and fraud at Equifax, the credit reference agency.
“The date of birth is a crucial part of identification as it’s the only detail that never changes. And once it’s posted online, it’s out there”, said Mr Marsden.
Getting hold of your address and stealing your identity
Once fraudsters have your name and date of birth, it’s not difficult to track down where you live.
Online directories hold huge quantities of information – from addresses, phone numbers and even a list of your past and present housemates. This can all be pieced together to assume your identity.
Some sites offer a limited number of free searches and will then charge a small fee for premium information.
The next step would be to obtain fake identification documents using your details.
These can be easily ordered online – Telegraph Money discovered one site which promised high quality passports that included security features such as watermarks, microprinting and security threads.
The site claims these would be “no different from the original documents”.
The price of a replica passport depends on the country it’s purported to be issued from.
A fake British passport costs £550. Those who want an additional bogus driving licence can get both for £720.
A replica US passport is priced at £590.
The site also offers money off for repeat customers. Those who order again will receive a 5pc discount – this increases to 10pc for the third and fourth order, and 15pc when five or more orders are made.
There are also a number of websites that sell imitation utility bills for £25 a time which could also be used in a credit or loan application.
Trial, error and interception
Each provider will require specific information when processing online and face to face applications. It doesn’t take long to “crack the system”, according to Mr Marsden.
And through trial and error, fraudsters can quickly learn what details are needed so they can go back and reapply.
Once the account is opened, the fraudster will try and intercept the documents or credit cards sent from the bank or other provider to your address.
Many addresses are targeted because of shared mail boxes – such as a set of flats with open access to post.
Protect your date of birth on social media
You can adjust the settings on your Facebook profile so that only you can see your date of birth and other personal details.
“People need to be mindful about their credentials displayed on social media – consumers don’t seem to realise how key their date of birth is to their identity,” Mr Marsden said.
“Cases of fraud are on the rise, with identity theft representing a major slice of fraudulent activity. More adults in the UK are engaging with social media than ever before, especially on their smartphones, and a high number are readily sharing their personal information on these platforms.”