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Are the details we give away online making us more vulnerable to identity theft?

Identity fraud, phishing attacks and hacking are all on the rise as more of us rely on technology to run our daily lives. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Hardly a day passes now without news of companies, governments and banks being hacked. Organised crime has been quick to take advantage of our increasing reliance on the cyber world and every one of us is at risk of becoming a target. In today’s digital economy our personal information has fast become the new currency.

High profile data breaches in the news have made us all the more wary of our behaviour online and 64% of us are now more cautious about sharing our personal details with companies.

Despite this, identity fraud, phishing attacks and hacking are all on the rise. Phishing scams alone have increased 21% in the last year. But are we still giving away too much online?

A Wales This Week investigation has revealed the dangers of identity fraud, how easy it is to become a victim and what we all need to do to protect our personal details.

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Phishing scams have increased 21% in the last year Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

For the first time in history, the UK government has placed cyber security as one of the top priorities for national security, alongside terrorism, international military crises and natural disasters.

Latest figures suggest the annual crime rate for England and Wales has doubled to more than 11.6m offences. The sharp rise has been put down to the inclusion, for the first time, of an estimated 5.1m online fraud incidents and 2.5m cybercrime offences.

Are you aware of what details you are leaving behind? Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Ever sold an old mobile phone on or given it away to a recycling company?

An ITV Wales investigation has revealed just how much information can be left behind about you on your old mobile phone even after a factory reset.

ITV secret filming reveals your personal data is not always successfully deleted Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The more systems collecting more data it’s the security of that data. Typically we see in data sanitisation studies that we perform there are some holes or gaps in the market on some devices...people want to sell their phones on, get some money back for their old device, they need to be aware of perhaps their information is going along with that sale to another person.

– Gareth Davies, Senior Lecturer, Computer forensics, Univesity of South Wales

ITV Wales purchased a range of phones from second hand high street store CEX ltd. The phones were analysed by the computer forensics department at The University of South Wales and one of the phones revealed a large amount of very personal information about the previous owner.

We found the previous user of one of the devices full name, address, date of birth, all of the contacts so we know who they are friends with, who their family are.

Their home address, their GPS locations, all their pictures on the device, all their text message conversations, which resulted in us ultimately finding online user accounts, user names and passwords, and credit or debit card details and it also seemed like potentially this person had been a victim of fraud in the past.

– Gareth Davies, Senior Lecturer, Computer forensics, Univesity of South Wales

We contacted the previous owner of the mobile. They did not wish to be interviewed, but said they were shocked about the data we had found.

CEX told us that their ‘procedures are continuously evolving‘ and ‘different models are tested and processed in different ways’. They ensure their ‘data wiping is compliant with the Information Commissioner's Office guidance’.

The Information Commissioner’s Office says it will be making appropriate enquiries about CEX as their website caters for public enquiries and not company compliance.

Andrea Byrne becomes an onscreen victim to hacking and is shocked to find out the results of her digital footprint analysis Credit: ITV Cymru Wales
  • To see more on this investigation, watch presenter Andrea Byrne have her digital footprint analysed and to find out how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity fraud tune in to The Great ID Giveaway at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales.

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