NATIONAL: Bank details and addresses are being sold on the web, report says
PERSONAL data such as online banking details, addresses and telephone numbers are being sold through forums and online shops accessible via search engines, a report has said.
Fraud prevention body Cifas found illegal activity was taking place not just on the ‘dark web’, but on the ‘surface web’ too, with criminals taking advantage of readily available data from sites such as social network accounts.
The research also revealed that criminals were giving away some private information for free, using it as an advert for the type of data that could be bought.
According to the report, details of Paypal logins could fetch up to £280, while online banking details were worth more than £160.
Identity fraudsters buy these personal details and use them to apply for products and services such as home loans and credit cards in someone else’s name.
Deborah Leary, chief executive of digital forensics organisation Forensic Pathways, which was involved in the research, described the findings as ‘eye-opening’.
She said: ‘This report reminds us that although illegal activity occurs on the dark web, it is also prevalent on the surface web, where the selling of personal data through forums and online shops is clearly evident.’
The report found that people’s personal information was often found through social media, and warned that a ‘wealth’ of data could be found if privacy settings were set to public.
In a sample of 30,000 victims of identity fraud, almost a third (8,646) were found to have a visible digital footprint on the surface web, the majority identified on a social media platform.
Company directors are also at particular risk of fraud, the report added.
Of the 8,646 victims, 13 per cent were company directors, 96 per cent of whom could be found on Companies House. Of these, 76 per cent had their home addresses registered as their business address.
Cifas has urged people to take steps to protect themselves from identity fraud, by deleting or deactivating old social media accounts and minimising the data they display online.
It also said social networks should consider automatically setting a profile to the highest security settings available.
Sandra Peaston, director of insight at Cifas, said: ‘For those who want to promote themselves, either professionally or personally, the real dilemma is whether this promotion outweighs the risks of revealing personal sensitive data.
‘With identity fraud reaching record levels in recent years, more personal information available online, and increasing numbers of data breaches, the protection of personal data must be viewed as a collective responsibility.
‘Everyone should play their part.’