As ID fraud soars, here are seven steps you can take now to stay safe online

The number of victims of identity fraud rose by 57% last year, with thieves using social media websites as a 'hunting ground' to harvest victims' personal details, which they can then use to go on crime sprees.

Tips for staying safe online

Cifas, a service that gathers information from hundreds of financial firms, fear that a lack of awareness about the crime is making it easier for conmen, who use social media as their “hunting ground”, to steal cash.

It found that there were 148,463 victims of the crime in 2015, compared with 94,492 the previous year.

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The largest rises were seen among the 31-40 and 51-60 age groups, with rises of 64% and 60% respectively.

Cifas also highlighted that the number of victims aged 30 and under more than doubled between 2010, when 11,000 fell prey, and 2015, when 23,959 were targeted by fraudsters.

Here’s what you can do now to protect your information online...

• Make sure you have the most up-to-date security software installed on your computer, including anti-virus. Some banks offer free security software. Check your bank’s website for details.

• Only shop on secure websites. Before entering card details ensure that the locked padlock or unbroken key symbol is showing in your browser.

• Always suspect any unsolicited emails that claim to be from a reputable organisation, such as your bank or the tax office, and do not click on any links in the email.

• Make sure you are the only person who knows the Pin for your card.

• Check your bank and card statements for unusual transactions. If you spot any, let your bank or card company know as soon as possible.

• Your bank or the police will never phone you to ask for your four-digit card pin or your online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad; ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping; or ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say it is in your name.

• Banks and the police will never send someone to your home to collect your cash, Pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud or ask you to purchase goods using your card and then hand them over for safe-keeping.