Fraudsters ready to swoop on Christmas shopping spree

Savings account fraud has hit an all-time high - Experian urges Brits to beware festive fraudsters as risk of fraud peaks in December

Experian is warning people to be more vigilant than ever with their personal information, as savings account fraud has rocketed to twice the rate it was two years ago. The number of fraudulent applications for financial products, such as credit cards and current accounts, has risen 50% in the same period, as fraudsters have become increasingly savvy at using stolen information.

Other highlights from Experian’s latest quarterly ID Fraud Tracker include:

  • Between July and September this year a staggering 57 in 10,000 savings account applications were reported as fraudulent – the highest it has ever been.

  • Fraudsters are using saving accounts as a Trojan horse into banks, moving on to credit products as they are cross-sold. The accounts could also be used for money laundering.

  • While savings topped the charts for the highest increase in fraud rate, credit card applications were close behind, increasing by nearly 35% in the past two years.

    Nick Mothershaw, fraud expert from Experian, commented: “Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to protecting your identity, so we’re hoping these figures will be a wakeup call for people to be extra watchful of potential fraudulent activity. With fraudsters using savings accounts as a route in to access other financial products, they could become a safe haven for ID thieves. We’re urging people to think twice before sharing any personal information, keep a close eye on their accounts and to take a more active role in keeping their identities safe.”

    With its ID Fraud Trackeralso revealing a peak of fraudulent credit applications in December 2015 (69 of every 10,000 credit applications were fraudulent in that month alone) Experian is urging Brits to beware of Christmas Cons this year.

    Mothershaw said:  “Christmas is a time for fun and frivolity. But all too often it’s also a period where people throw caution to the wind in favour of a quick deal, extra drink or easy life. Our data suggests people may be more relaxed in safeguarding their information over the Christmas shopping period, paying less attention to the sites they use and the information they share. At this time, when people are most vulnerable to fraudsters, it’s vital people are even more alert to potentially suspicious activity on their accounts.”

    Experian is calling for people to take extra care of their personal information this Christmas. Below are six tips to help people protect themselves from fraudsters during the festive season.

    Password protect: Don’t take shortcuts with your online security because you’re in a hurry to tick off everything on your Christmas list. For example, if you sign up to a few new online stores you’ve not shopped with previously, make sure you’re not using the same password. Strong passwords consist of a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

    Shop safely: Shopping for Christmas gifts can be stressful, especially when a gift for a loved one is out of stock seemingly everywhere. While it can be tempting to purchase gifts from sites you are unfamiliar with – especially when they’re reduced in price – Christmas is not the time to throw caution to the wind in the interest of bagging a quick bargain. Keep in mind the adage “If it sounds too good to be true it usually is,” and don’t take the risk. Research the retailers by reading reviews and pay by credit card where possible – credit cards give you more protection than other payment methods.   

    Be smart with social: Christmas is a time for sharing, but as open as you may like to be on you social profiles, remember that often the information you share is in the public domain and could be easily traceable. Everyone enjoys a Christmas jumper ‘selfie’ but avoid becoming overzealous with the information you post, particularly around things like your email address, date of birth and address, which could be used by a fraudster to build up a victim profile in your name.  It doesn’t matter how many mulled wines you may have had, you should always think twice before adding someone you don’t know to your network.

    Check your credit report: Should personal information fall into the wrong hands, it’s good to know where those details go. Checking your credit report regularly can help you quickly identify credit applications made under false pretences. Web monitoring tools available through services like Experian CreditExpert are also useful as they scour the web for stolen details – sending you an instant notification if your information appears somewhere new online. 

    Shred to prevent: We consume a lot over the festive period, and for many of us there can be an unwieldy amount of rubbish and recycling to contend with. Remember that the threat of physical identity theft is as real as the threat of online identity theft, so be sure to continue good recycling habits over Christmas. Don’t throw out all of your Christmas card envelopes with your name and address on them, for example. Be sure to shred important documents.

    Think like a thief: Take a minute to think about the information you are required to provide to complete a credit application. That’s your name, address, date of birth, place of work. Now think about where people can find that information about you. It could be online or it could be on hard copy of your payslip. Taking steps such as the ones outlined above will help to minimise the risk of your personal information falling into the wrong hands.     


    Do you really know your customers?

    Sales on Black Friday topped £1 billion for the first time last year, while total takings over the weekend totalled £3 billion. An Experian survey found 40p in every pound spent this Christmas will be transacted online.

    Retailers are under increasing pressure to deliver a seamless journey for customers whether online or offline to make the most of Christmas spending boom. In a recent Experian survey, nearly half (47%) of people said they often use their smartphone to compare prices online while they shop in store.

    However, businesses also need to be aware of a generational divide. Most (87%) of 18 to 24-year-olds say they are comfortable making online purchases using their mobile phone, but only 35% of over 65s feel the same way.

    Businesses also need to tread carefully when addressing potential customers over the festive period.

    Six in 10 (61%) of people said they are put off by communications which use the wrong personal details, while more than two-thirds (67%) say they find it intrusive when brands they have never bought from before use their details to personalise messages.

    Yet 87% of people said they found it acceptable to receive personalised communications from brands they like or admire, so long as it is relevant to them or from companies they have recently shopped with.


    Notes to Editors

  • Nick Mothershaw is the UK&I Director of Identity and Fraud at Experian
  • View an interactive dashboard of fraud across the UK, for free, at: 

  • Information is based on 2016 application data. Experian works closely with National Hunter, the UK’s leading fraud prevention system, operated by Experian on behalf of members. It enables financial institutions to share data, so that they can spot and prevent potentially fraudulent activity, protecting themselves and their customers.
  • Once fraud is confirmed, people should contact Experian’s VOF team by emailing or calling freephone 0800 0155 556.

About Experian We are the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to our clients around the world. We help businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision-making. We also help people to check their credit report and credit score and protect against identity theft. In 2016, for the third year running, we were named one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” by Forbes magazine.

We employ approximately 17,000 people in 37 countries and our corporate headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.

Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended March 31, 2016, was US$4.6 billion.

To find out more about our company, please visit or watch our documentary, “Inside Experian.”