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Epidemic brings an upswing in identity theft in Finland

A fresh study indicates that more remote work and online shopping have prompted an increase in cyber scams.

Identity thieves have been exploiting fears and uncertainty..

More than half a million Finns have been the targets of identity theft attempts over the past year. The number of attempts has risen sharply since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, according to a survey commissioned by the security insurance company mySafety.

Carried out in April by IRO Research, the survey of 1,000 people in Finland found that young adult internet users are the primary victims of identity theft. Nearly one-fifth of people in the 25-34 age group said that they had been the victims of identity theft, or of attempts to steal their identity by scammers.

Over all, the study shows that over one in eight Finnish residents have been targeted by identity thieves. In reality, this figure is probably higher since some people are unaware that they have fallen victim to identity theft.

Almost one third of those interviewed reported having received "phishing" messages attempting to get them to reveal personal information over the past year. Among young adults that figure was close to half. Most phishing attempts were made by email, but large numbers were also reported as coming via social media.

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Online services users are urged to change passwords frequently and sign up for multi-factor authentication. Image: Eleni Paspatis / Yle

Repeated warnings

The majority of identity thefts last year reported by interviewees were linked to their social media accounts. This was especially true for 25-34 year-olds and for people over the age of 65.

A third of victims were unable to say how criminals had accessed their personal data.

Police in Finland have issued repeated warnings of online scams. The number of these scams has grown during the coronavirus epidemic with attempts to exploit fears and misinformation about the virus and the current situation.

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency's National Cyber Security Centre has received a large number of notices of emails using the virus and its effects as a pretence to gain access to personal and credit card information.

Earlier this week, the centre issued a warning of a new Facebook scam aiming at hijacking user accounts. It advises online users to change passwords frequently and sign up for multi-factor authentication where possible to prevent misuse of their accounts