Fashion & Fraud – Fraudsters ‘bag’ Britons’ Identities
Trendy oversized handbags are making women a walking target for fraudsters, according to new research out today.
The average size of a handbag has doubled in the last ten years(1) and new findings from CPP reveal that women are increasingly using them to hoard valuable documents such as passports (1.3 million), bank statements (1 million) and pay-slips (3.1 million).(2)
The ‘maxi-bag', made fashionable by the likes of Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham, has become a ‘must-have' item – but has significantly increased women's exposure to fraud. As bag theft is on the increase, with over 700,000 cases last year(3), experts are warning about the dangers of overloading handbags with too much personal information.
More than three-quarters of women admit that their bag contains papers with names, dates of birth or their addresses (83 per cent) but more than half (53 per cent) are unaware what information a fraudster would need to steal an identity.
And it's not just fashion-conscious women who are at risk. More than one in ten men now carry a ‘man bag' and over 62 per cent admit that they carry around sensitive personal documentation – including bank statements (10 per cent) and passports (7 per cent).
Top locations for bag theft are pubs (29 per cent) and public transport (29 per cent), while one in ten have been targeted while out in a night club or shopping centre. (4) Many are making it simple for fraudsters by leaving bags unattended or open on the back of a chair (10 per cent).
Last year according to APACS, the UK payments association, card fraud totaled £609.9m up 14% on 2007 and CIFAS, The UK's Fraud Prevention Service, said there were over 62,000 victims of impersonation for the purpose of identity fraud.
Commenting on the research, Kerry D'Souza, card fraud expert at CPP, says "It's easy to forget that your identity is as valuable to a thief as your wallet or car keys. As handbags get bigger and man-bags become more popular, people need to be aware of the risks attached to carrying around personal documentation and avoid doing so if at all possible.
"Ideally your passport, bank statements, passwords and payslips should be locked away at home in a secure place and if you lose your payments cards inform your bank as soon as possible."
CPP top tips to reduce the chances of falling victim to identity theft and card fraud:
* Avoid carrying personal documents on you such as credit card, utility bills and bank statements
* Don't write down PIN numbers, passwords, user names unless you absolutely have to do so, and if you do, keep them very secure and to yourself
* If you are going to throw away post with your personal details shred it first – this even includes junk mail
* Keep valuable documents at home, for example, passports, driving licence and bank statements, hidden and secure. Never take these documents out with you unless you absolutely have to
* If you move house tell your bank, credit card and utility providers. Use the Royal Mail redirection service and consider registering with the mail preference service to prevent mail going to your old address
* Sign up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode as it will largely put a stop to lots of unauthorised online spending
* When making purchases, don't let staff take your debit/credit card out of sight, even for a second
* Apply for a Card Protection type product to protect you against lost and stolen fraud or an Identity Fraud protection policy to insure you against identity fraud.
Remember the golden rule: identity thieves are experts at spotting an opportunity to steal your identity and all they need are a few personal details
BUT if you do fancy a big gorgeous bag make sure you keep its safe and secure. Here are a few…
· 77% of Brits carry documents that contain personal information such as name, date of birth or address
· 51% of Brits couldn't be sure of what information a fraudster would need to steal an identity
· 16% of Brits couldn't list what exactly was in their bags
· 25% of Brits carry diaries in their bags
· 14% of Brits carry mail in their bags
· 11% of Brits carry pay slips in their bags
· 9% of Brits carry work documents in their bags
· 5% of Brits carry bank statements
· Of those that have lost their bags or had them stolen in the past 2 years, 14% have been victims of card fraud
· Of those that have lost their bags or had them stolen in the past 2 years, 5% of have been victims of identity fraud
For more information on CPP click on www.cppgroup.com