TIM DREW: Identity fraud levels highest ever recorded

Tim Drew
Tim Drew

CIFAS, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released new figures showing that identity fraud has hit its highest levels ever recorded – 172,919 such offences having being recorded in 2016.

Identity fraud represented 53.3 per cent of all fraud recorded by CIFAS, of which 88 per cent was perpetrated online. The vast majority of identity frauds occur when fraudsters impersonate innocent individuals in order to buy a product or take out a loan in their name.

Often, victims do not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating.

To carry out this kind of fraud successfully, fraudsters need access to their victim’s personal information such as name, date of birth, address, bank and account payees.

This is obtained in a variety of ways, for example by stealing mail, hacking, obtaining data on the ‘dark web’, exploiting personal information on social media, or though ‘social engineering’ where innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from their bank, the police or a trusted retailer.

CIFAS has seen growing numbers of young people falling victim in recent years and this trend continued in 2016 with almost 25,000 victims under 30.

Mike Haley, deputy chief executive of CIFAS, said: “There are three simple steps that anyone can take to protect themselves: use strong passwords, download software updates when prompted on your devices; and avoid using public wifi for banking and online shopping. We all remember to protect our possessions through locking our house or flat or car but we don’t take the same care to protect our most important asset – our identities. We all need to take responsibility to secure our mail boxes, shred our important documents like bank statements and utility bills, and take sensible precautions online – otherwise we are making ourselves a target for the identity fraudster.”

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