It’s no secret that identity theft is on the rise. In fact, Cifas data shows that cases are up by a third compared to five years ago.

And right now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people are relying heavily on internet services and creating new online accounts for services that they'd previously use exclusively in person, such as doctor's and even dentist appointments.

Recent research carried out by F-Secure shows that people have an average of 18 online accounts and 41 percent reuse the same password across those accounts. That rises to 56 percent when slight variations of the same password are used.

That is no surprise: there’s enough to have to remember in life without also having to remember 18 or more different email and password combinations, and which combination you used for which website.

The problem is that, since you use the same email address for most online sites, using the same password means that if any one of the sites is hacked and your details leaked, they can be used to log into all the other accounts.

It’s like having a single key on your keyring which unlocks everything: if someone steals that key, they can take everything.

The survey, carried out in May 2020 which covered almost 5000 people in 12 countries also revealed that 65 percent of consumers are worried that their identity could be stolen and used to purchase items online or for loan fraud.

How to protect yourself from identity theft

The obvious solution is not to use the same email address and password combination for multiple accounts. That’s easier said than done, which is why we recommend using a password manager to remember (and enter) those login details for you.

F-Secure offers a password manager which is included in its new ID Protection service. Like other similar services, this monitors the web – and dark web – for data breaches and watches out for any leaks which contain your details, or those of other members of your family.

It then alerts you so that you can change your password and ensure anyone who buys those stolen credentials can’t use them.

Tom Gaffney, principal security consultant at F-Secure said, “It’s interesting that despite many online users being aware of the dangers of ID theft that many still aren’t putting enough measures in place to protect themselves. For many ID theft is distressing, time consuming and costly so it’s crucial people protect themselves more so than they are.  There could be a number of reasons why people are risking themselves including lack of awareness or inconvenience but now more than ever they need to be clued up on it.”

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