Fraudsters targeting first-time buyers

Fraudsters targeting first-time buyers

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According to credit-reference agency Experian, there are increasing incidents of fraudsters targeting first-time buyers, and some of it can be related to data breaches.

As a firm of expert data breach compensation lawyers, this news doesn’t come as a surprise to us at all. First-time buyers can be vulnerable to the kinds of tricks and scams that criminals can pull off, particularly because of being thrown into the world of owning a home for the first time. Criminals could pose as a number of organisations or parties, and they could use information from data breaches to convince people that they’re the real deal.

This kind of problem demonstrates how bad a simple data breach can actually be for a victim when criminals use even small bits of seemingly “harmless” data that has been exposed in a breach to do serious damage.

How are fraudsters targeting first-time buyers from data breaches?

There are many easy ways that can lead to fraudsters targeting first-time buyers successfully. As a law firm that specialises in data breach compensation, we’ll focus on how the two can be linked.

There has been a large number of data breaches, leaks and hacks in recent years. Millions of people have been affected by them, and in some cases, people have been affected by more than one. Some of the data that’s exposed can end up on the so-called “dark web”, and it can be sold to criminals to go on and use.

Now, imagine you’ve just bought a house. It wouldn’t take much for a criminal to find out your information, especially if you’re on the electoral roll. Imagine a criminal had a database of stolen data, and could see that you were on it. They may have your email address, account number for utility companies, partial passwords, security questions; it could be all sorts.

Now, imagine a clever criminal uses this data to convince you they’re someone else: like a utility company, or a representative from the council, or even someone from the builders who sold you a new home. You’re new to this whole owning a house thing, so you’ll learn there’s a lot more to it than just signing a contract and moving your belongings in. Such criminals can find so many ways to exploit what you don’t know, and then they can use that against you by exploiting a little bit of information that has been exposed in a data breach event.

Criminals are prepared to steal from shared mailboxes to get information about people, and when you’ve just moved into a new house, there’s a lot of changes you may make, which means a lot of data being sent out to you. All these little things can add up and give a criminal the arsenal they need to try and convince you that they’re someone genuine. And that’s where the vulnerabilities come from.

An example

One of the easiest examples of how criminals can use a little bit of exposed information to steal money from you is the TalkTalk data breach example. Although it’s not about fraudsters targeting first-time buyers, it can give you an idea as to what they do.

We know that some victims of the TalkTalk hack have been contacted by criminals posing as TalkTalk. The fraudsters have known vital information, like their account numbers, contact information, and even notes or issues from accounts. This is believed to have been gained from the hack, and they can use it to convince people they’re the real thing.

They’ve then been able to convince people to transfer money, and allow criminals into their home network because they’ve genuinely believed that they’re TalkTalk trying to help them. And it’s all stemmed from the fraudsters knowing key information about them.

Apply that to first-time buyers, and you can see how criminals can convince victims that they’re a genuine person. With Experian recently confirming that cases of fraud against new homeowners reportedly increased by 35% in the first half of this year, you can see how they can be a vulnerable target.

It’s something that people need to be wary of. Data leaks, breaches and hacks are not going to go away anytime soon, so vigilance is key. At the end of the day, saying that a breach is only “minor” because only a little bit of information has been exposed doesn’t mean that the risk of someone suffering harm as a result of the breach is lower. Fraudsters can use that information against people, and when there’s more than one breach to pick data from, the accumulative affect can lead to serious risks of financial fraud.

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