Your feedback is essential to help us improve - click here to take our 3 minute survey.

Are you vulnerable to identity theft? Here’s how to tell

Are you vulnerable to identity theft? Here’s how to tell
Image source: Getty Images

If you are concerned about identity theft vulnerability, you have every reason to be. Identity theft is becoming more common, and consumers need to be more vigilant than ever to protect their finances.

According to the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office), somebody who steals your identity can then potentially open a bank account, apply for a credit card or claim government benefits pretending to be you. By the time you even realise that it’s happening, your credit history could be seriously damaged.

Here are four factors that put you at a higher risk of identity theft.    

1. You use the same password everywhere

In 2014, the Russian CyberVor hacking gang stole 1.2 billion usernames and passwords from thousands of sites. Chances are, yours were among them. This wouldn’t be so bad if you had changed all your passwords since then. However, security experts believe up to 50 per cent of consumers use exactly the same password on many (if not most) of the sites they regularly visit.

If your email, your Amazon account, and your bank account all have the same password, hackers only need to break into one of the accounts to gain access to a lot of your private information. This is made even easier because a lot of people use very simple sequences of characters as their passwords, including things like “12345” or their own name.

To reduce your overall identity theft vulnerability, always use unique passwords everywhere and make them hard to guess. If you can’t remember them all, make a list and keep it somewhere safe at home. Or use variations of the same password by adding extra numbers or characters to make them harder to guess.  

2. You fit into a certain age group

One identity theft vulnerability factor you have no control over is your age. According to cybersecurity intelligence firm Teiss, people over 60 are particularly vulnerable to identity fraud. This is because older people are less likely to be familiar with online safety. In fact, experts believe individuals over 60 are more vulnerable to phishing attacks and other methods used by fraudsters.

Children and young adults are also vulnerable to identity theft. In children, this is because adults are less likely to monitor their child’s identity and children aren’t aware of how to protect their information. For example, parents often don’t monitor what personal information their children are sharing in social accounts or what quality of password they’re using.

For very young children, credit reporting agency Equifax suggests keeping all of your child’s personal data in password-protected devices with good antivirus software. This can help prevent fraudsters from stealing their private information.

3. Something major just changed in your life

Identity theft vulnerability increases at the time of major life events. Things like changing jobs, getting married or buying a home require lots of paperwork and lots of signing in to databases and filling out forms. The more information you share, the higher the chances something might get misplaced or fall into the wrong hands.

To avoid this, always double-check who you’re sharing information with and don’t leave copies of your documents lying around for others to see.

4. You share too much on social media

Weak privacy settings put you at risk for identity theft and financial fraud. Using your dog’s or your child’s name as a password is also a risk, especially if you post their names online, where fraudsters can easily find them. Password recovery questions used on websites are often based on personal and childhood information. If you share lots of private details on social media, a dedicated fraudster could eventually find the answers and access your accounts.

To avoid trouble, don’t use basic and obvious personal information in your security passwords. Also make sure you adjust your privacy settings so that only family and friends can see what you post on social media.

Products from our partners*

Top-rated credit card pays up to 1% cashback

With this top-rated cashback card cardholders can earn up to 1% on all purchases with no annual fee. Plus, there’s a sweet 5% welcome cashback bonus (worth up to £100) available during the first three months!

Those are just a few reasons why our experts rate this card as a top pick for those who spend regularly and clear their balance each month. Learn more here and check your eligibility before you apply in just 2 minutes.

*This is an offer from one of our affiliate partners. Click here for more information on why and how The Motley Fool UK works with affiliate partners.Terms and conditions apply.

Was this article helpful?

Some offers on The Motley Fool UK site are from our partners — it’s how we make money and keep this site going. But does that impact our ratings? Nope. Our commitment is to you. If a product isn’t any good, our rating will reflect that, or we won’t list it at all. Also, while we aim to feature the best products available, we do not review every product on the market. Learn more here. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays, Hargreaves Lansdown, HSBC Holdings, Lloyds Banking Group, Mastercard, and Tesco.