There’s little doubt that London will be the centre of the world for a while this summer, for some well-documented reasons – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and of course the 2012 Games.
We’re sure to see images of happy, smiling crowds all around the nation’s capital – it sounds wonderful, but it also has the potential to be a boom time for identity fraudsters this summer.
New figures from Experian reveal that 7.7 million Britons from outside the capital are set to descend on some of the UK’s worst areas for ID theft – while 1.9 million Londoners plan to escape.
London, the boroughs around many of the Games venues in particular, is already home to the UK’s worst ID fraud hotspots, with rates of attempted fraud up to 11 times higher than the national average. These include East Ham (11 times higher), Woolwich (6.5 times higher) and Stratford itself (six times higher).
Into these areas are set to come a mass influx of people with UK bank accounts, credit cards and personal information, in unfamiliar surroundings and exercising less caution than if at home or on holiday abroad.
This could present a massive opportunity to fraudsters, with visitors to the city likely to have passports and other pieces of identification about their person, be using smartphones and unsecured WiFi hotspots, and also potentially sharing hostels or rented accommodation with strangers.
If you are coming down for the Games, once you’re back it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your personal information, and on your credit report for any signs of unusual activity. CreditExpert also provides alerts if your personal details appear anywhere unexpectedly online so it is easy to protect yourself pro-actively.
Top five risks – and what you can do to help you stay safe
Passports – Think about how much sensitive information you really need to have about your person – if your hotel booking has your card number and address, do you need to carry it around with you, for instance? Likewise, don’t take your passport out with you unless you absolutely have to. If you are staying in a hotel for the Games, ask for sensitive documents to be securely stored in the hotel safe when you are not using them.
PIN codes – Make sure that no-one else can see you enter your PIN code at ATMs and chip and pin machines, particularly in large crowds. Do not write down or carry your PIN code with you.
Smartphones – If you have a smartphone, you’ll certainly want to photograph and tweet your time at the Olympics, but be particularly careful what you share when connected to an unsecured wireless network. Also ensure you switch off Bluetooth and roaming settings when not required and ensure you use a password.
Post – If you’re going to be one of the lucky ones visiting London for a few weeks to enjoy the Games, think about what you’ll do with your post. Intercepted post is one of the key ways in which fraudsters can take people’s detail, so it could be worth setting up a redirect for the duration of the Games.
Face-to-face – Check the credentials of anyone asking for your personal information, whether by phone, face-to-face or over the internet. If in doubt, don’t do it!
Nearly six out of 10 (59 per cent) will be staying for several days. Although one in four (25 per cent) will be staying in hotels and one in five (21 per cent) with friends, a significant minority (four per cent) will risk staying in a hostel and two per cent will be renting a property or someone’s spare room – some 154,000 people.
And although they are concerned about large crowds (23 per cent) and the expense of London (20 per cent), just three per cent are worried about identity fraud.
The risk of ID fraud among visitors is arguably heightened by the decision of many Londoners to quit the capital during the course of the Games. One in 14 (seven per cent) are looking to leave London for the duration of the Olympics, with a further one in six (17 per cent per cent) planning to get out of the city for at least some of the period.
But it’s not just newcomers who need to be careful. The one in 20 Londoners taking on a lodger or renting out a room or their whole property need to be aware they are putting themselves at risk of ID fraud by inviting a stranger into their home and are advised to ensure personal details are locked away and post collected promptly.
Peter Turner, Managing Director at Experian Interactive, commented: “This is set to be a once in a lifetime summer. But that doesn’t mean people should let their guard down – just because you are holidaying in the UK, you should still take the same precautions you would if you were on a city break to Europe.
“Identity fraud is one of the fastest-growing crimes of the 21st century, and anyone could be at risk from fraudsters getting hold of their personal information, particularly if they are in an unfamiliar area, renting a flat short-term or a room in a B&B. Likewise if you are a homeowner letting a spare room just for the Olympics, do ensure all your personal details are kept safe from visitors.
“This is why it is so important to have proper safeguards in place to protect your identity.
With Experian CreditExpert if the worst should happen you will be alerted to any significant changes to your credit report so that you can react quickly and keep the risks to a minimum.”
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