Too many expats are leaving an electronic trail as they move around the world that gives fraudsters a chance of stealing their online identities.
The black market in stolen identity has hit a record high with crooks trading more than 10 million pieces of data so far in 2014.
The information comes from online consumer security firm Experian, which says the figure is already up 40% compared with 2013 and 300% up on 2012.
In most cases the traded identity information comprises account log in username and passwords, money card details and security codes.
Now, the firm is warning expats to close unwanted online accounts when they move.
How ID theft works
The average expat has at least 189 online accounts – with those aged between 25 and 34 averaging 28.
Fraudsters are targeting unused social media accounts, email addresses and accounts with stores and auction sites.
Many expats make cracking their security easy for fraudsters. Around 5% have the same username and password for all their online activities, 10% have an average of seven passwords across all their accounts and another 10% never update their security details.
Experian’s Peter Turner said: “Security and payment details used online are invaluable to fraudsters while too few people are protecting their online identities.
“Once crooks get this information they will go through popular email and social media sites to see if they can access accounts. From there, they can lock the real users out, buy goods in their names with their credit cards and then sell the information on to someone else.”
Keeping secure online
The firm suggests taking five simple steps to keep online identities safe:
- Keep separate passwords for email, banks and retail sites – and include upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers to make them stronger
- Never open attachments on email from someone you don’t know in case they contain malware that let criminals access your computer remotely
- Don’t forget to securer information on your phone and tablets as well as computers
- Keep private information confidential on social networking sites
- Watch your credit card and bank statements for suspicious transactions
“Regaining control of your online life once your passwords and username have been stolen can take months,” said Turner. “The time and stress involved can easily be avoided by being sensible with the way you secure your accounts.
“Most people do not realise their security has been breached until they see their money draining away and by then, it’s often too late to do anything about it.”