Last night there was a programme on TV discussing Identity fraud and what the UK police, in particular the City of London Police (which deals with the most Identity fraud) are doing to try and reduce it.
What is very clear is that there are a group of clever ‘good’ people (the police) constantly chasing and playing catch up with another group of clever, albeit, ‘bad’ people (the crooks). Some of the techniques employed by the crooks are very sophisticated and some are very basic. It is the basic techniques that we are still falling for that amazes me.
One of the points raised by the programme and the main reason for this post is the way that we as the general public handle our own identities and how easy we make it for Identity fraudsters.
One of the public awareness campaigns shown on the programme involved the police raking through people’s rubbish to find Identity related documents and then knocking on their door to educate them as to what they had thrown away. The sheer amount of information found in the majority of rubbish bins was astounding.
I know that it is partly the responsibility of various organisations (police, banks, credit card companies, finance companies etc) to protect us where possible from having our stolen identities used or even stolen in the first place, but surely the biggest emphasis must be on us controlling our identity and its dissemination in the first place. If we didn’t allow people to get our credit card information in the first place, then the credit card companies would have less of a battle preventing its fraudulent use.
There are claims from some of the people on the programme that they “weren’t aware of the risks associated with throwing their bank statements away”. This is a poor excuse. This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon that has just hit us. Identity fraud has be around and rife for a number of years. In addition, it is on the rise and becoming more and more front page news all the time.
Its not just about throwing away sensitive documents. Social engineering has been around for years and is a well known technique (Kevin Mitnicks books give great examples of this)for exploiting people into doing what you want them to do (e.g. give you information, perform a task for you etc) but, again, the programme highlighted how often people reveal their details over the phone without ever trying to establish who the person on the other end actually is.
Its time that the general public woke up to the real risk of Identity fraud that is upon us and actually start to take some responsibility for protecting their own identities. Otherwise, this problem will just keep getting worse and worse.