Agile Computing Authors: Kevin Benedict, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Jim Kaskade, Lori MacVittie

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ALLOW Exposes How Fraudsters Shop for Victims Online

ALLOW, the London-based information privacy company, has discovered the latest techniques that fraudsters use to scope out their targets using the internet and social media. ALLOW’s report is based on an in-depth interview with an offender carried out by Professor Martin Gill, an expert in criminology. It is the most up-to-date research available on ID fraud, revealing:

  • The sites that criminals use – 192.com, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • The personal information that they look for – names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and work histories
  • The common tricks of the trade – creating fake profiles, paying for information from 192.com, getting clues from photographs and hacking emails
  • The common mistakes that people make – accepting friend requests from people they don’t know, over-sharing, giving out sensitive information over the phone and not checking privacy settings

Justin Basini, ALLOW’s CEO said: “The results of our research are frightening. What we’ve discovered is that fraudsters use websites and social media to build detailed profiles of their intended targets, cross-referencing information from one site to another. They get most of what they want by virtue of the fact that most people give it away without thinking and then they fill in the gaps by either buying the data, hacking for it or tricking someone into revealing it. It should make anyone think twice about how they use social media and what personal information they give out. This is not pie in the sky, this type of crime is happening right now.”

Armed with this insider information, ALLOW set out to find just how many people might be at risk and discovered some alarming results:

  • Giving away personal data
    • 30% of people have revealed their email address – that represents 6.7 million facebook users in the UK
    • 34% have given out their date of birth (7.6 million facebook users) and 28% their location (6 million facebook users)
    • 10% have given out their mobile phone number (2.2 million people)
    • 26% have revealed where they work on social networks (there are 10.6 million LinkedIn users in the UK)
  • Connecting with strangers – 22% of people accept friend requests on Facebook from people they don’t know – that’s 7 million people in the UK
  • Photos – 62% of people have posted photos of themselves on Facebook and 12% have done the same on twitter
  • Privacy settings – One in four people (23%) have never checked their privacy settings on social media
  • Blame the social networks – One in three people (33%) think that social media companies don’t do enough to help people manage their privacy settings because it doesn’t suit their business model
  • Putting children at risk – 12% of people worry that their children are putting themselves in danger by giving away too much information online

ALLOW’s ‘Fraud 2.0’ report revealed a typical process that a criminal might go through, with the objective of impersonating someone in order to borrow money: firstly, the fraudster would look for the right kind of target, typically someone who freely gives away information online and doesn’t check their privacy settings. He would also look for someone who is reasonably wealthy, with a financial track record and a good credit rating. This is where LinkedIn helps fraudsters by displaying education and work history. Secondly, the fraudster would work through a list of people, chasing leads until one of them paid off. The idea is either to harvest enough information to impersonate an individual, or to trick either that individual or their friends into revealing personal data. Sometimes a fraudster will hack into emails in order to get further information.

Professor Martin Gill said: “Our in-depth interview with an offender was the sort of information that normally only a cell-mate would hear! The individual simply followed a process, building profiles and then if he got rumbled he just moved on to the next person. He found it shockingly easy to gather personal information online. He was fully aware of the damaging effects that ID fraud can have on victims, but to him it was just a means to an end. Don’t expect any sympathy from a fraudster if you over-share on social media.”

According to Stop ID Fraud, a quarter of the UK population have been victims of ID fraud, costing on average £1076 per individual. It takes on average 7 months to realise that you have been a victim of ID fraud and another 3-4 months to resolve the situation.

ALLOW recently launched ID fraud and social media insurance for ALLOW subscribers and covers them for events such as:

  • A claim made against them by a financial institute, merchant or collection agencies
  • The requirement to remove any criminal or civil judgments wrongly entered against them
  • The need to create documents to prove their innocence in respect of any financial irregularities unlawfully committed in their name


Notes to editors:

Full report and figures available upon request. Qualitative research carried out by Perpetuity Research in October 2012. Quantitative research carried out by OnePoll in October 2012 amongst a sample of 2000 UK adults.

ALLOW (www.i-allow.com) was established by Justin Basini, a former Head of Marketing & Customer Initiative Management for Capital One in Europe. ALLOW is backed by Arts Alliance and is based in London and Chester. A full bio of the founder is on the website and photos are available on request.

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