Identity theft affects many in HK, data show

Top News | Samantha Wong 23 Jun 2017

More than 40 percent of Hongkongers have been a victim or know a victim of identity theft perpetrated mainly through voice phishing or hacking into e-mail accounts and personal computers, a survey shows.

But in spite of their awareness of identity-theft risk, victims did not have a clear understanding of its long-term impact, the poll said.

The survey, conducted by credit information and information management services firm TransUnion, showed most respondents (82 percent) only focused on the immediate financial loss instead of the potential negative impact on their credit score (49 percent).

Lawrence Lo Shui, TransUnion Hong Kong's director of consumer interactive, said the consequences of identity theft are much more severe than immediate loss of money.

"With basic personal information, such as an ID number, someone can easily obtain false lines of credit and rack up significant debt in your name, and the damage can be long lasting," he said.

"A blow to your credit score can stick with you for months or even years and have consequences on borrowing ability."

Most respondents (70 percent) claimed they were cautious in protecting their personal information. But findings revealed lack of precautionary measures overall.

The survey also suggested that younger consumers seemed less concerned with protection even if they were more worried about ID theft, as only 38 percent avoided unauthenticated wi-fi - with 48 percent in this group belonging to the 35-54 age range against 56 percent aged 55 or over.

To minimize risks of identity theft, Lo suggested several precautionary measures.

People should use different passwords in different devices and accounts to create a barrier, making access to personal information by unauthorized parties more difficult. Passwords should be changed regularly for more effective protection.

Caution should be exercised using applications relying on NFC technology, which is a set of close-range wireless communication standards that allows data to be transferred between a smartphone and other devices.

Before providing any personal or payment information, people should look for a URL that starts with "https" - not "http" - and which shows an image of a lock on the page to ensure security.

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