Young people increasingly at risk of identity fraud, data shows

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Young people are increasingly being targeted by criminals online, with identity fraud among under-21s surging by nearly a quarter, researchers have warned.

More and more young people are also being exploited as “money mules” by crooks who use their accounts to move dirty money, the Cifas fraud prevention service said.

The form of money laundering carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years and young people are being urged to be wary of attempts to dupe them into taking part in criminal activity.

Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas, said their findings were “alarming to say the least”.

“Young people are increasingly at risk of becoming victims of identity fraud, with little idea of how to protect themselves,” he said.

“For all of us, as parents, teachers, and responsible citizens, we have a duty to ensure we’re taking every opportunity to educate young people on the dangers of becoming a fraud victim – and equally, a perpetrator of fraud.”

Cifas provides fraud-prevention advice to individuals, businesses and organisations.

Analysis of its member data showed that the number of victims of impersonation, or identity fraud, aged under 21 rose by 24% to 3,527 in the first nine months of 2018.

The majority of cases were plastic card fraud, such as bank, debit, credit or store cards.

Meanwhile the number of under-21s in money mule cases rose 26% to 9,636.

“As the rise in money mules demonstrates, many young people seem unaware of the risks they’re running and the consequences it can have not only for the individual concerned but for society as a whole,” Mr Haley said.

“More needs to be done to raise awareness about the harm of fraud and financial crime. We’re calling on banks in particular to ensure that they are providing young people with the necessary knowledge to prevent them falling victim to fraud – or becoming fraud perpetrators.”

Older people are often viewed as being more vulnerable to fraudsters online than tech-savvy youngsters, however junior generations are being targeted in greater numbers, according to Tom Clementson of Shieldpay, a tech firm specialising in online fraud prevention.

“Our own research indicates that almost three times as many 16 to 24-year-olds have been victims of online scams in comparison to over-55s,” he said.

“More needs to be done to educate and prevent younger people falling prey to these types of online swindles.”

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