Illegal Web Trade in Personal Information Soars

More than 12 million pieces of personal information were illegally traded online by identity fraudsters in the first four months of 2012, new figures from Experian CreditExpert reveal. Bespoke research* from Experian CreditExpert’s web monitoring service – which helps people to quickly detect ID theft – shows that the first four months of 2012 have already outstripped the entire of 2010 when 9.5million pieces of personal information were illegally traded. Approximately 90% of the illegally traded data during January – April this year consisted of password and login combinations. This dramatic surge is thought to be in part due to consumers having a spiralling number of online accounts.

Experian CreditExpert’s new web monitoring service continuously monitors the web on behalf of its customers – to immediately detect the theft, loss or disclosure of vital personal and financial information.

Additional consumer research commissioned by Experian CreditExpert reveals that the average Briton now has 26 different online accounts with 25-34-year olds being the most prolific, with no fewer than 40.[1]

The number of online accounts is set to grow further, with nearly one in five of Britons (17 per cent) signing up to six or more new accounts every month, making us more vulnerable to the possibility of having our personal password and login details stolen.

Despite this, Britons use an average of just five different passwords to keep their details safe, with a quarter (24 per cent) using a single password for the majority of profiles, and one in 25 (four per cent) sticking with the same login details for all their accounts.

In addition, many people are potentially putting themselves further at risk by no longer using many of their accounts, resulting in passwords not being changed regularly. In fact, two thirds of adults (66 per cent) admit to having defunct profiles that hold valuable personal and financial information, including social network profiles (26 per cent), email addresses (18 per cent) and shopping accounts (21 per cent).

Peter Turner, Managing Director at Experian Consumer Services in the UK and Ireland, commented: “The reason password and login combinations make up nine out of ten illegally traded pieces of data is because they give access to a huge amount of other valuable information, such as address books and related accounts.

“Using a different password for each account will minimise risks, but if password information is stolen from a website, all accounts using the same details will be compromised, and this information can spread among fraudsters rapidly.

“Users need to protect themselves with a service like CreditExpert’s web monitoring, which will alert them by text or email at the first signs that their details have been compromised.”

The threat of identity fraud is certainly real, with some two million people having fallen victim[2].The consequences are often serious, many victims having debts run up in their name (nine per cent)

The research[1]also found that others have been refused loans or credit cards (14 per cent) or turned down for mobile phone contracts (seven per cent) – often the first that a victim knows of their identity having been stolen.

As a solution, as well as using Experian CreditExpert’s new web monitoring service, people are advised to keep a close eye on their personal information and on their credit report for any signs of unusual activity.


1. Avoid the obvious

According to Experian CreditExpert research, 20 per cent of us use the name of a pet as our password. Avoid using memorable words like these, especially those that may be on your profile or used elsewhere in your account details, such a security question.

2. Find the right length

Try to keep passwords at least eight characters in length – 10 or more is preferable. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack.

3. Mix it up

Try to include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Rather than words, use the initial letter of a memorable sentence. “I need to choose a new password right now” could become “In2c@nPrN”.

4. Find a system

Having a unique password for all your accounts can be daunting, but a good approach can be to base passwords on lyrics of your favourite songs or lines from films, giving a sequence of passwords that you can work through.

5. Keep an eye on your credit report

CreditExpert offers you a free credit report [ ] for 30 days. Highlighting the history of all your credit accounts and will highlight any irregularities such as people applying for loans or cards in your name. This is often the first way that you will know your details have been leaked.

Notes to editors:

*Two sets of research were conducted:

    - External consumer research conducted by Opinion Matters among a
      representative sample of 2,000 UK adults in June 2012.
    - Internal research carried out by Experian CreditExpert.


Experian CreditExpert’s web monitoring system which scans forums where personal information is traded detected that 12 million pieces of data were traded illegally online, globally.

1) External consumer research conducted by Opinion Matters among a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults in June 2012.

2) The UK adult population is 48,091,600 (ONS). Fifteen per cent have had their personal details leaked online or suspect they have, of whom 28 per cent have been victims of identity fraud. Therefore: 48,091,600 x 0.15 x 0.28 = 2,019,847

Key benefits of Experian CreditExpert membership:

– Experian is the UK’s most trusted credit reference agency

– Experian is the credit expert with more than 30 years of experience

– Free 30-day trial of CreditExpert*(*New customers only. Monthly fee after trial ends)

– Unlimited access to your Experian Credit Score

– Weekly alerts of changes to your credit report

– 24/7 web monitoring service

– Access to an award-winning, UK-based customer services team

– Identity Protection Insurance of up to GBP75,000** (**terms and conditions apply)

– Expert advice and tools to help improve your credit rating

– Intelligent price matching to credit products suited to your credit history

– Consumers can apply directly from the website:

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